I've got the following .htaccess file in my a custom directory in Uploads called client.

RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !(www.)?example.co.uk/client-area*
RewriteRule ^.*$ - [R=403,L]
ErrorDocument 403 'http://www.example.co.uk/client-area/'

So if someone tries to access a file in the uploads/client/ directory from anywhere else other than the client-area page, they get redirected.

However, I want to ignore this when I'm using download_url to access a file in that directory. Is there a rewrite condition I can use to facilitate this?

  • This problem has been solved with very WordPress specific code. I have no idea what the point of these close votes is. – fuxia Apr 12 '16 at 7:26

You can inject a made-up referer into WordPress’ HTTP request by filtering pre_http_request. All you need is a simple class like this (untested!):

class FakeWpReferer
    private $referer;

    private $url;

    private $is_regex;

     * @param string $referer
     * @param string $url URL to fake the referer for.
     * @param bool   $is_regex Is $url a regular expression?
    public function __construct( $referer, $url, $is_regex = FALSE )
        $this->referer  = $referer;
        $this->url      = $url;
        $this->is_regex = $is_regex;

     * @wp-hook pre_http_request
     * @param   array $args
     * @return array
    public function inject( array $args, $url )
        if ( $this->match_url( $url ) )
            $args['headers']['Referer'] = $this->referer;

        return $args;

     * @param string $request_url
     * @return bool
    private function match_url( $request_url )
        if ( ! $this->is_regex )
            return $request_url === $this->url;

        return (bool) preg_match( $this->url, $request_url );

And then register it as a filter:

$fake = new FakeWpReferer(
add_filter( 'pre_http_request', [ $fake, 'inject' ], 10, 2 );

Then you can use download_url(), and WordPress will use your custom referer. Be aware that everyone else can fake referers too, so your "protection" isn't really one.

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