What Is Hotlinking? | Definition and Prevention

What does hotlinking mean? Hotlinking is obtaining an image from a source to be displayed on another website illegally. It is an illegal act that can be prevented by changing the settings on the original source image. To know more about hotlinking, we will explain what it is, why it is bad, and how you can prevent it.

What Is Hotlinking?

Hotlinking, as mentioned earlier, is a frowned-upon practice by people who use images from a website as their own, consuming the original source’s bandwidth. The appreciation of people for your images can sometimes cause problems because site visitors might get your content without your permission.

Sometimes, people unintentionally copy the content’s URL and paste it on another website, linking it directly to the original owner’s site. When people visit a site that “hotlinks” to your content, it uses your bandwidth.

This means that the more people who will access the content, the more of your bandwidth is consumed. Although this is an act of copyright infringement, other people who do this do not know or realize this is illegal or bad.

Why Is Hotlinking Bad?

There are a few reasons why this practice is bad:

  • It is illegal in most cases, as mentioned earlier. This is primarily because a lot of the photos online have licensing restrictions.
  • Again, hotlinking might be accidental because a lot of people are not aware of the consequences of this practice or are too busy to follow the right linking practices. Others might not know how to correctly link to images.
  • It also drains server bandwidth, as mentioned above. This is even worse if a website with a huge traffic links to your content and you are on a shared web hosting service.

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5 Ways to Prevent Hotlinking

You can avoid hotlinking in a few ways, but before knowing them, check first if your content is “hotlinked”. To do this, type url:domain.com -site:domain.com in the search box of your search engine.

Replace domain.com with your site’s URL. Go to Images from the search results to see the sites with your content.


Used this keyword. Please check title if okay.

What is hotlinking

Once you make sure your images are “hotlinked”, you can proceed with the ways to prevent this from happening again.

1. Configuring the Settings of Your Control Panel

Log in to your control panel and look for Hotlink Protection. Click on it once it appears in the search results.

hotlinking

In the Hotlink Protection settings, you will see various sites that can access your content. You will also see the types of content that will be blocked from your website.

Click the Enable button to enable the protection for hotlinking.

hotlink protection

2. Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN lets websites control traffic better by utilizing a cluster of servers in various places. Using a CDN enhances security, increases speed, and reduces use of bandwidth.

Just remember that every CDN has its own set of rules. You might be preventing hotlinking differently depending on the provider.

3. Using Plugins in WordPress

You can also avoid hotlinking with a plugin. You can try the All in One WP Security & Firewall plugin as one of the many hotlinking plugins in WordPress.

To install it, log in to your website and go to Plugins from your Dashboard menu. Select Add New and type the name of the plugin in the search box.

Once the plugin appears, click Install Now and then Activate on it.

all in one wp security

Once the plugin is installed and activated, you will see WP Security from your Dashboard menu. Hover over to it and select Firewall.

WP Security

On the Firewall page, select the Prevent Hotlinks tab and then tick the box for Check this if you want to prevent hotlinking to images on your site. Click Save Settings once done

Security Firewall

4. Disabling the Right Click Option

Disabling the right click option for your content is also another way for hotlinking protection. To do this, go to WP Security and select Miscellaneous.

disable right click

Go to Copy Protection and check the box for Check this if you want to disable the “Right Click”, “Text Selection” and “Copy” option on the front end of your site. Click Save Copy Protection Settings.

copy protection

5. Modifying the .htaccess File

You must do this in your control panel. Log in to your control panel and go to File Manager under Files.

File Manager htaccess

Open the public_html folder and look for the .htaccess file. Once found, save a copy of the file to your computer for backup.

Public_html folder

Right click on the file and select Edit.

edit htaccess

Copy the following code:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?google.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?bing.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?yahoo.com [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)?mydomain.com [NC]
RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif)$ – [NC,F,L]

Paste the code at the bottom of the edit page and replace “mydomain.com” with your site’s URL. Click Save Changes at the upper right side of the page once done.

Rewrite Engine On

Does Preventing Hotlinking Negatively Affect Your Site’s SEO?

Blocking hotlinking on your website does not hurt your site’s SEO. You must set up the protection properly though because some crawlers from search engines need your site’s images to correctly display and index them.

Conclusion

Blocking hotlinking on your website stops people from unintentionally stealing your images and saves bandwidth use. You can do this by configuring the settings of your control panel, using a CDN or WordPress plugins, disabling the right click option, or modifying the .htaccess file.

Make the necessary changes to your website now and stop people from unintentionally stealing content on your site!