• Error 509 Bandwidth limit exceeded due to Hotlinking

    A couple of days ago I received a message from my hosting company saying my bandwidth usage was 80%. Yesterday I received the Error 509 Bandwidth limit exceeded message. I increased my allowance then tried to track down the cause of the problem. It turned out that a site had been hotlinking one of my images… stealing bandwidth.

    You know who you are. Don’t do it!

    Finding the problem

    First off I looked at my trace summary records. But couldn’t see anything there. Then I looked at my Apache server access log.

    I noticed thousands of requests for the same image. With all of the requests coming from the same referrer. I visited the referrer site and found that my image was being displayed in the site’s header.

    To date it had been loaded over 700,000 times.

    Fixing the problem

    I decided to put a stop to it.

    First off I replaced the image with a 100 byte menu item separator.

    Then, having read the altlab’s articles, I added a redirect to display this image instead.

    Further tidying

    Having decided to re-enable the correct display of the image when viewed from my site, but prevent the offending site from loading the image, I discovered that Jetpack’s Photon module had now cached the target image of the redirection.

    I’ve now created a smaller, lower quality version of the image and updated my pages to use this new image.


    Any requests for the original image will be handled as follows:

    • The offending site will get the redirected image
    • Other sites will get the menu bar separator

    Further thoughts

    What’s also a bit of a shame is that Jetpack’s Photon module had not been able to intercept the many thousands of requests to my image.

    So I’ve learnt something…

    even though you use a CDN, you’re not protected from bandwidth theft

    See also



    Last updated:

    August 27, 2015


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Tide Times & Heights for Northney on
Friday, 15 October 2021

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Tide Times & Heights for Northney on
15th October 2021
00:53 Low Tide ( 1.54m )
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