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Is there a way to prevent non-Stack Exchange sites from linking to uploaded images?

For example look at the following site. Doesn't it look familiar?

The image here is being linked directly to http://i.stack.imgur.com/tUXF8.gif. I know such functionality is supported because PHP (blaah!) even supports it.

In my opinion it would solve a major security problem. The site above is asking for usernames and passwords. Hosting costs are a big issue. Most sites don't even bother duplicating the images because of this issue.

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The whole purpose of imgur is to be a site that lets people hotlink their images. It's literally the only reason that the site exists. Preventing people from hotlinking images from the site that exists to let people hotlink their images is pretty nonsensical.

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  • I want a diamond moderator to confirm this. StackExchange has a separate unique domain stack.imgur.com . There has to be a reason for getting a separate domain(they only reason I would get a special domain is for security but there doesn't appear to be any added security benefit). – William Sep 16 '15 at 3:51
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First, the images aren't StackExchange's, they are hosted on Imgur, an external image service. The images don't belong to SE, it is all licensed under the CC license, so with proper attribution it belongs to everyone.

Second, you didn't give a reason why external sources shouldn't be allowed to access the images. As others said: why won't you want to allow to reuse an image on your blog, or anywhere else. If you don't want to lose control over it, don't post it.

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  • IMO it solves a major security problem. The site above is asking for usernames and passwords. I guess it's just begging for people to copy the site like the example above. – William Sep 10 '15 at 16:09
  • +1 I agree with Patrick. Liam William add your comment findings to your post. – HackerKarma Sep 10 '15 at 16:15
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    @LiamWilliam It is incredibly trivial to copy the images and host them yourself. You're not proposing something that will make an impact on scraper sites; they'll just modify their automated copy tools slightly to account for it. – fbueckert Sep 10 '15 at 16:16
  • As @fbu said. You can view them, so anyone can copy them. No need to deny access from other sites. It doesn't have any use to do that... – Patrick Hofman Sep 10 '15 at 16:17
  • @fbueckert hosting costs are a big issue. Most sites don't even bother duplicating the images because of the issue. – William Sep 10 '15 at 16:17
  • They don't care for the images. How many posts have images anyway? – Patrick Hofman Sep 10 '15 at 16:18
  • @PatrickHofman Including the logo link the example above every page. – William Sep 10 '15 at 21:07
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It is not clear what exactly the benefit will be except that spammy scraper sites have less useful content.

First of all, those sites don't care about the images, they are only interested in directing traffic to them by having a good SEO. Images are hardly attributing to that.

If you are going to block images from loading from non-stack-exchange sites you also block legitimate uses of the content which can't be the goal of this request.

On top of that the blocking software should be implemented by imgur, not by Stack Exchange.

I think scrapers like the one you found should be reported and all possible means should be employed to shut those sites down. Only blocking part of the content is not going to help much while it does hamper legit use of the content.

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  • IMO it solves a major security problem. The site above is asking for usernames and passwords – William Sep 10 '15 at 16:13
  • +1 I agree with you. Also, Stack Exchange should send a DCMA notice to the ISP hosting site. – HackerKarma Sep 10 '15 at 16:13
  • @HackerKarma or change to a different site. – William Sep 10 '15 at 16:14
  • @LiamWilliam what do u mean by "change to a different site"? – HackerKarma Sep 10 '15 at 16:16
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    @LiamWilliam I'm not into security that much. How is not showing images solving a major security problem? – rene Sep 10 '15 at 16:17
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    @LiamWilliam The potential risks of Phishing from that site have nothing to do with the fact that its hotlinking images. Forcing it to re-host the images would do nothing to prevent that. – Servy Sep 10 '15 at 16:20
  • @Servy hosting costs are a big issue. Most sites don't even bother duplicating the images because of the issue. – William Sep 10 '15 at 16:21
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    @LiamWilliam Again, that's not going to prevent the site from performing Phishing attacks if that's what it really wants to do. It might cost them an extra few cents a month, maybe, but that's about it. Bringing it up as a security issue issue is just absurd. Stopping hotlinking is in no way a security issue. – Servy Sep 10 '15 at 16:23
  • @HackerKarma something other then imgur – William Sep 10 '15 at 18:27
  • @LiamWilliam You do know that SE pays for the account on imgur? – rene Sep 10 '15 at 18:30
  • @rene Even better reason for imgur to support what I am talking about. – William Sep 10 '15 at 18:35

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