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Keeping Your Images from Adorning Other Sites Page 2

By Ken Coar (Send Email)
Posted Jun 14, 2000


One of these header fields is of particular importance to what we want to do. It's called the Referer field (yes, I know, it's misspelt--but that's how it's misspelt in the definition, too), and it indicates the URL of the client's last page if and only if the client is following a link. That is, if you're viewing page A, and click on a link to page B, the request for page B will include a Referer field that says "I'm following a link on page A." If no link is being followed, such as if the user just typed B's URL into the Location field of his browser, there will be no Referer field in the request header.

How does this help? Well, it gives us a way to tell whether an image is being requested because it was linked to by one of our pages -- or by someone else's.

Using SetEnvIf to 'Tag' Images

For a simple case, suppose our Web site's main page is <http://my.apache.org/>. In this case, we want to restrict any artwork requests that don't originate on our site (i.e., only allow them if the image was linked to by one of our pages). We can do this by using an environment variable (also called an envariable) as a flag, and setting it if the conditions are right. Something like the following ought to do it:


  
    SetEnvIfNoCase Referer "^http://my.apache.org/" local_ref=1
  

When Apache processes a request, it will examine the Referer field in the header, and set the environment variable local_ref to "1" if the value starts with our site address--i.e., is one of our pages.

The string inside the quotation marks is a regular expression pattern that the value must match in order for the environment variable to be set. Describing how to use regular expressions (REs) is far beyond the scope of this article; for now, just be aware that the SetEnvIf* directives use them.

The "NoCase" portion of the directive name means, "do this whether the Referer is 'http://my.apache.org/', or 'http://My.Apache.Org/', or 'http://MY.APACHE.ORG/' -- in other words, ignore the upper/lower caseness of the value.

Using Envariables in Access Control

The Order, Allow, and Deny directives allow us to control access to documents based upon the setting (or unset-ness) of an envariable. The first thing to do is to indicate the order in which Apache will process Allow and Deny directives; you do with the Order directive as follows:

    Order Allow,Deny
  

This means that Apache will go through any list of Allow directives it has that apply to the current request, and then repeat the process with any Deny directives. With this ordering, the default condition is 'denied;' that is, no-one will be able to access anything unless there's an applicable Allow directive.

All right, so let's add the directive that will let local references work:

    Order Allow,Deny
    Allow from env=local_ref
  



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