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What Is a .htaccess File and How Is It Used

A .htaccess file is a file that establishes a protocol for communication between a website and a server such as Apache which is responsible for controlling the files that should be displayed on your computer when you type a URL address into a browser. A .htaccess file is created through a program such as Notepad and is written in plain text format. After the file is created it stores commands that direct the server for website viewing. The commands that are written in a .htaccess file apply only to the website folder and the sub folders that are located inside of that folder.

How .htaccess Files Work

  • Configuration Files: .htaccess files provide a way for you to make changes to your website directory and create specific commands for sending communication to the Apache server. This is why the files include a configuration file and allow you to also send commands to search engine spider bots when they crawl through your pages for indexing. You can specify which pages you want indexed and other ones that you wish to block from indexing.
  • File Extension: .htaccess is actually a file extension which you create by setting up an empty page in Notepad. You use .htaccess as the file extension and then create the commands inside the page. The file which is written in plain text is in a format called ASCII which initiates the communication between the file and the Apache server. It is important to remember to set the file so it is not viewed in a browser because this could threaten the security of the other files in your website and leave them open to unauthorized criminals
  • Root Folder: When you complete the .htaccess file it should be stored in the root folder of the website directory. Before you do this it is also important to have knowledge of how the file works because it can easily cause other problems with your website if you use it incorrectly.

.htaccess File Security Concerns

Before you use a .htaccess file, it is important to find out from the server administrator if they support .htaccess files. Some of the server types do not support this type of file because it runs the risk of compromising the server configuration. If you are not allowed to use a .htaccess file on the server, make sure you abide by the rule otherwise it can cause major problems with the server and get you in a lot of trouble. This is because an .htaccess file gives you control over some of the server configurations so you can make your files compatible with the type of server you are using.

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When you download programs - particularly freeware, or peer-to-peer sharing programs.

More covertly, spyware can install itself just by you visiting certain sites, by prompting you to download an application to see the site properly.

ActiveX controls. These pesky spyware makers will prompt you to install themselves while using your Internet browser