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Hotlinking Protection Web Hosting Information

Hotlinking is direct linking to a web site's files. An example would be siteA.ext using an <img> tag to display a .jpg image located at siteB.ext.

Hotlinking is also known as inline linking, leeching, or direct linking.

Why do people hotlink?

Hotlinking is done to conserve bandwidth by stealing someone else's bandwidth.

Bandwidth is the amount of data transferred to and from a website. Every time a page or picture is viewed, data is transferred between the visitor's web browser and the website. If a website is over its monthly bandwidth, it's taken offline until the owner orders a bandwidth upgrade.

A hotlinking example:

theif.ext wants to add some pictures to his website. theif.ext predicts that thousands of people will view these pictures every day. theif.ext knows he does not have enough bandwidth to host these pictures from his own site.

theif.ext finds another website that has the same picture files, say victim.ext. theif.ext hotlinks the pictures from victim.ext's website by adding the following html code to his gallery.html page.

<img src="http://victim.ext/image1.jpg">
<img src="http://victim.ext/image2.jpg">

theif.ext is now hotlinking pictures from victim.ext's website. Even though the pictures show up when going to theif.ext/gallery.html, the data that is being transferred to your web browser is coming from victim.ext's website.

It is not uncommon for the victim to run out of bandwidth due to hotlinking.

What can be done to prevent hotlinking?

To stop hotlinking you can use a web host that provides an easy to use interface to mange hotlinking protection.

If your host does not have such an interface, you may stop hotlinking of your images from other sites by using a .htaccess file. The following code will cause an image called nohotlinking.gif2 to be displayed instead of your images.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(.+\.)?your-site\.com/ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteRule .*\.(jpe?g|gif|bmp|png)$ /images/nohotlinking.gif2 [L]


  1. The first line of the above code begins the rewrite.
  2. The second line matches any requests from url.
  3. The [NC] code means "No Case".
  4. The third line means allow empty referrals.
  5. The last line matches any files ending with the extension jpeg, jpg, gif, bmp, or png. This is then replaced by the nohotlinking.gif2 file in your images directory. This gif image is using the extension .gif2 instead of .gif to prevent blocking of your own replacement image.

To stop hotlinking only from specific domains such as,, and, place this code in your .htaccess file.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://(.+\.)?myspace\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://(.+\.)?blogspot\.com/ [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^http://(.+\.)?livejournal\.com/ [NC]
RewriteRule .*\.(jpe?g|gif|bmp|png)$ /images/nohotlinking.gif2 [L]

If you are worried bout your nohotlinking.gif2 image using up all of your bandwidth, you can display a 403 Forbidden error code instead of an image. Replace the last line with the following:

RewriteRule .*\.(jpe?g|gif|bmp|png)$ - [F]


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