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How can I prevent non-logged in users from accessing PDFs/DOCs/Etc.

Posted on 2014-01-09
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Last Modified: 2014-02-20
I inherited various web clients from another developer many years ago.  One client site, that's probably over 8 years old, has some serious security issues.  Recently, a PDF that they thought was only accessible through the client's login, showed up on a Google search, and opened just fine. Since they assumed these could only be accessed when their client's logged in, they're understandably freaking out.

I plan to add SSL so that, at the very least, their login codes are encrypted, I've also added a robot.txt file so they won't index them anymore; however, what is the best way to prevent anyone from entering www.domain.com/pdf/filename.pdf into the browser to view these documents?

The host told me that I'd have to secure that directory with a password, meaning they'd have to log into their account, then add another username/password to open any of these files.  I can't believe this is the answer.  So, I'm coming to you brilliant folks.

Any ideas for how to assure this client that their private documents are private?  Let me know.  Thanks.
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Question by:StellaBob
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Accepted Solution

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Gary earned 500 total points
ID: 39769738
The best security is to have the file outside the root of your site so they are not directly accessible at all
Then when someone needs to access them you can stream the file to them (of course checking they are logged in).
While the file is not publicly accessible it doesn't prevent your server side code accessing it.
Usually your user permissions would extend to one folder above your root, this would normally store other things like webstats etc.
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Expert Comment

by:Dave Baldwin
ID: 39770300
There is no easy answer to your question.  Gary's response is a good one but it requires you to rewrite the code that accesses the files.  It also assumes that you have access above your web root directory which is not true on most shared hosting.
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Expert Comment

by:Gary
ID: 39771211
@Dave
Most shared hosting will give you FTP to a parent folder above your root as this is where your stats etc will be stored - well it has always been the case for me when I have used shared hosting in the past.
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Author Comment

by:StellaBob
ID: 39771486
This particular host does allow access to the parent folder above the root.  Let me see what I can do there and I'll let you know.  Thanks.
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Author Closing Comment

by:StellaBob
ID: 39873894
While I haven't figured out how to code this, I believe this answer would be the best option for me.  Thanks.
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