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Module mod_rewrite: 2 - Rule Conditions


26.05.2006. agvozden : aleksinac.net

(Tutorial Part 2)

(bro) In last issue's first part we started off with a
discussion of the basics of Module mod_rewrite. In the
example reviewed there we made use of a rule which,
put in full words, states:

"If access to file .htaccess is attempted, return
an error message stating that access is denied."

This rule is valid globally, i.e. everyone will
receive the specified error message.

We can, however, restrict a rule by what is termed
"rule conditions" - in this case, the rule will only
be executed if the condition set has actually been

Syntax: The condition must precede the rule!

Let us explain this procedure with an example.
(The lines below are entries in file ".htaccess".)

RewriteEngine on
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^EmailSiphon
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

The first three lines were covered in detail in Part 1
of this tutorial. Their function is to initialize the
rewriting engine.

The last two lines will refuse access to a spider
carrying UserAgent "EmailSiphon". This specific
spider is an email harvester culling addresses from
web pages.

Our line:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^EmailSiphon

is made up of the following three parts:

Directive:   RewriteCond
TestString:  %{HTTP_USER_AGENT}
CondPattern: ^EmailSiphon

The TestString is a server variable which
is written in the general form of

In our example we have defined the "HTTP_USER_AGENT"

CondPattern is a regular expression.
Before we continue with its specifics, let us take a
look at regular expressions and their function in

Regular expressions

Regular expressions are a means of describing text
patterns. They are used to check if a text pattern is
present in any given text. Once determined, this
pattern can then be manipulated.

Regular expressions are similar to a small, compact
programming language in its own right.

E.g. the regular expression "s/abc/xyz/g" will
globally replace the string "abc" in a text by "xyz".

Here is an overview of the most important elements
with some examples:

.(dot) - text (any character)
|      - alternation (i.e. /abc|def/)
*      - quantifier (any number is allowed)
^ $    - line anchors
s      - operator (string1 to be replaced by string2)
g      - modifier (search parses the whole text)

Regular expressions are construed with the help of
these elements and alphanumeric characters.

Regular expressions are not used isolated by
themselves; instead, they are integrated in other
tools, e.g. in languages like Perl or in text editors
such as Emacs.

In connection with Module mod_rewrite they are used in
the directives RewriteRule and RewriteCond.

"^" represents the beginning of a string. It follows
that the UserAgent must begin with string
"EmailSiphon" and nothing else. ("NewEmailSiphon", for
example, would not work.) In this case the condition
would not be met.

But as this particular regular expression doesn't
contain the character "$" (end of line anchor), the
UserAgent could, for example, be "EmailSiphon2".

The last script line

RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

defines what will happen when a spider is requesting

The regular expression "^.*$" signifies:

If access to any file is requested, the error message
"forbidden" will be displayed.

The dot "." in the regular expression is a meta symbol
(wildcard) and signifies any random character.

"*" signifies that the string may occur an unlimited
number of times. In this case, regardless which
specific page is called, an error message will be

EmailSiphon is, of course, not the only email
harvester. Another famous member of this family is

So let's say we want to fend off this spider as well.
In this case we will require another condition to be

This gives us the following entries to file ".htaccess":

RewriteEngine on
Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteBase /
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^EmailSiphon [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^ExtractorPro
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

The third argument ([OR]) in line:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^EmailSiphon [OR]

is termed a "flag". In regard to conditions there
exist two possible flags:

NC (no case)
OR (or next condition)

Flag "NC" permits case insensitive testing of the
condition pattern.


RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^emailsiphon [NC]

This line specifies that both "emailsiphon" and
"EmailSiphon" shall be recognized.

If you wish to use multiple flags, you may delimit
them by commas.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^EmailSiphon [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} ^ExtractorPro

There are no restrictions to the number of conditions.
Thus, you could block 10, 100, 1000 or more
established email harvesters. Defining these 1000
conditions is merely a question of server performance
and of ".htaccess" transparency.

In the above example, the string "HTTP_USER_AGENT"
is being used.

Further server variables are:


For example, if you want to block the spider comming
from < www.cyveillance.com >, you will use variable

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_HOST} ^www.cyveillance.com$
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

The dot "." in the domain name must be protected
by "" (backslash), otherwise it would be handled like
any other meta character.

If you want to block any given IP, the condition will

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^$
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

In the regular expression, enter the IP in its
entirety, delimited by the line anchors.

You may even exclude a whole IP range from access:

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^216.32.64.
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

This example will cover all individual IPs from
"" through "".

Here's a little teaser quiz for you to check out your
skills. (The solution will be featured in the next
part of our tutorial.) Enjoy!

RewriteCond %{REMOTE_ADDR} ^216.32.64
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [F]

Quiz question:
If we don't write "^216.32.64." for a regular
expression in the configuration above, but
"^216.32.64" instead, will we get the identical
effect, i.e. will this exclude the same IPs?

Up until now we have used a simple RewriteRule
which will generate an error message. In the 3rd part
of our tutorial we will analyze how RewriteRule may be
used to redirect visitors to specific files.

(to be continued ...)



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