Protecting access to web directories with htaccess

Okay, in an earlier article I was looking at uses of Google that might reveal things you don’t want revealed about your website. Maybe a test directory that you don’t want to be spidered. I want to say that it’s not possible to keep it hidden just by NOT linking to it. That’s what some will suggest, the argument goes along these lines “spiders just follow links, so don’t link to a directory or document you don’t want the web spiders to see.” Spidering bots seem to be a bit more resourceful though, I’ve seen files and folders that I can’t imagine were linked to being picked up in a web search, so how do we prevent that?

For that matter what about the people that might get lucky and guess our testing directory? There’s one answer that can solve both of these problems. It’s done using the .htaccess file.

You’re going to probably need to log into the command shell on your webserver unless your host has a control panel to deal with this. Password protect directories is what we’re going to do.

You need to create a file in the directory that you want to protect, let’s say it’s and the path is /var/www/html/test
AuthUserFile /var/www/html/test/.htpasswd
AuthName protectedtest
AuthType Basic require valid-user

Ok, this is good save and close, make sure that it is called .htaccess (a period in front of htaccess)

Then make sure you’re in the directory to be protected…

type the following to create the .htpasswd file and setup the first user

htpasswd -c .htpasswd testfolderuser

future users can be added by the following

htpasswd .htpasswd secondtestuser

After each of the above commands you will be prompted for a password for the user and then prompted to confirm it and everything should be set. There are some warnings to go along with this. Don’t put your .htpasswd file in a folder that can be viewed without permission. It’s USUALLY advisable to put it outside of the web-tree somewhere. If you do that, make sure to 1) specify the absolute path in the .htaccess file so .htaccess can find your password list. and 2) when running htpasswd, make sure to specify the absolute path to the .htpasswd file you are changing.

It is possible to have multiple password protected directories using either the same file of usernames and passwords, or a different set of usernames and passwords by using a different filename.

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