[wp-edu] Uploads folder content indexed in Google?

Ben Bakelaar bakelaar at rutgers.edu
Tue Sep 15 21:59:01 UTC 2015

Hello all, it appears we have had some of the files on our Wordpress
network indexed in Google search results. I had assumed security through
obscurity here, but it appears I was wrong.

Our network runs sites as sub-directories, and we also use domain mapping
for some of them. I haven’t quite figured out how yet, but one of the
mapped domains (xyz, not root.url.com) which points to site A has shown up
in search results with absolute paths to files in a completely different
site B (which is actually a sub-dir site, not masked). And they load just
fine – this must be an unanticipated quirk of DNS records + the Wordpress
code that routes requests.

So we have URLs like
xyz.domain/wp-content/uploads/sites/x/xxxx/xx/filename.doc coming up in
results! Eek! I have already started the removal requests via Google
Webmaster Tools. Again no explanation yet for how these URLs were located
by the search engines, but I’m working on possible theories.

Aside from getting to the bottom of this, I’m trying to figure out the best
way to block this from happening in the future. Apache .htaccess rules are
one option. Robots.txt could be another? Has anyone run into this issue
before, and what have you done as a solution? I’m a little surprised this
isn’t addressed “in code”. There are many plugins that allow uploads, this
is a desired and supported user behavior by default. But there are no
conceivable use cases I can think of where those uploads should be able to
be indexed by bots.

Could I simply place robots.txt in the root of the WP codebase, and tell it
to avoid indexing ALL files under /wp-content? Would that cover all the
various access cases with direct-linked files (like graphics), domain
masking/mapping, etc.? And to fully prevent opening any uploads from
outside the university network (as a decent but arbitrary perimeter), can I
do the same with .htaccess or do I have to make dozens of .htaccess files
per /wp-content/uploads/sites/X – in each little sub-directory?

School of Communication and Information

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
p 848.932.8710
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