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Suppose I have a simple directory structure like the following:

/var/www/html
  - index.html
  - 404.html

And a simple configuration like this:

<VirtualHost *:80>
    DocumentRoot /var/www/html
    ServerName example.com
    ErrorDocument 404 /404.html
</VirtualHost>

How can I prevent direct access to 404.html, i.e. when someone tries to access http://example.com/404.html directly, return a status code of 404 NOT FOUND, plus the content of 404.html?

Right now, if I access the URL directly, it will return 200 OK. If I tries to modify the status code via mod_rewrite:

<Location /404.html>
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteRule .* - [R=404,L]
</Location>

then an actual 404, e.g. http://example.com/not-exist.html, will return the following error:

The requested URL /not-exist.html was not found on this server.

Additionally, a 404 Not Found error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

So, how can I hide the 404.html from visitors, but still use it as the custom 404 error page?

1

After looking at a similar situation, I found the solution to this problem - there's a variable named REDIRECT_STATUS[ref] that will be set by apache when apache looks up the ErrorDocument internally.

So using the variable, I can add a new rewrite condition to allow apache to exclude actual 404 from being rewritten:

<Location /404.html>
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{ENV:REDIRECT_STATUS} =""
    RewriteRule .* - [R=404,L]
</Location>

and it solved my issue.

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