Last updated: December 29, 2018
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Hotlink protection is an option most web hosting companies provide to prevent other websites from directly linking to images or resources hosted on your website.
When another website directly links to images or resources on your site, it uses up your bandwidth. This can result in exceeding bandwidth limits imposed by your host and possibly extra charges. Illegitimate forms of hotlinking may even steal valuable traffic from your website or be used for malicious cross-site scripting and phishing attacks.
If your host provides hotlink protection, you will see a Hotlink Protection icon under the security section in cPanel. Simply click the icon and enable the option on the Hotlink Protection page. You will then have the option to specify a list of allowed URLs, select image files types you want to protect, and select a redirect URL for hotlinks.
Some possibilities for redirect URLs include links to an error page, your home page, or a promotional offer to attract visitors to your site instead of the hotlinker’s site.
There are a number of tools available, including free ones, that can test hotlink protection by creating a temporary link to an image on your site. If the temporary page is able to pull your image, your hotlink protection is not working.
Since hotlink protection provides additional security, it should not put your content or server at any risk. However, there is a chance that it could block legitimate access such as image search engines or sites that link to your site which could result in a drop in traffic. So be sure to allow access to any sites that may benefit you.
Yes. Hotlink protection only stops other websites from linking directly to your images. It does not stop users from downloading images directly from your website.
Hotlink redirects depends on the server in question. For example, some servers use the HTTP referrer to detect hotlinking and display an error message. Other servers such as Apache use mod_rewrite to redirect traffic to a different URL. IIS relies on third party programs to perform the redirects.
Yes, it is possible but it depends on the control panel your host uses. Some options to add hotlink protection include one-click installs, modification of an option in the .htaccess file, or manual installation of a third party program.
Yes, WordPress has some plugins promising to watermark images that have been hotlinked. However, this may be ineffective as an overall strategy to prevent hotlinking.
To create an .htaccess file in Windows, open up a program like Notepad, use the “All types (*.*)” option when you save, and enter the .htaccess name in the save dialog.
Yes, there are a number of tools available. Sites like htaccesstools.com allow you to set restriction levels, redirect hotlinks to a specific URL, and specify image types you want to protect. These sites will then generate an .htaccess file that can be directly uploaded to your server. But be careful! You don’t want to overwrite what is in your existing .htaccess file.
Some differences could include general convenience and what can be customized in terms of what’s protected and who has access. If you just need to protect image files, the free protection should be enough. To protect other content or set up highly-specialized exceptions, paid options might be a better choice.
Yes, there are several guides available online that will walk you through various options for hotlink protection. Since the best approach is constantly changing, review several options, view the most recent guides, and select the approach that provides the most complete protection.
Yes. A legitimate way to hotlink to someone else’s content is to send a message to the website owner and ask permission. If permission is given, then provide proper credit and a link back to their website. If the site owner is not willing to let you hotlink, try proposing using an image server so you won’t use up their bandwidth. But make sure you don’t violate copyright laws.
Yes, direct links will be prevented. However, you can allow them in email messages you send out, through most hotlink protection programs.