If you’re reading this article, you’ve likely run into the 403 Forbidden error and have no idea what it means or how to fix it. Don’t worry—you’re not alone! Many people face this common issue. A 403 Forbidden error can cause stress and confusion. It locks you out of pages or resources on your website. Not being able to access your site can delay updates, new releases, and business operations. 

Fast Panda is here to explain what the 403 error is, what causes it, its potential consequences, and most importantly, how to fix it.

Let’s dive right in because we know you want to fix your site! 

What is the 403 Forbidden Error?

The 403 Forbidden Error, or HTTP 403 error code, is an HTTP status code. It means that access to the page or resource you are trying to reach is strictly prohibited. Different web servers report 403 errors in various ways, much like 404 and 502 errors.

You might see this error displayed as:

  • 403 Forbidden
  • HTTP 403
  • HTTP Error 403: Forbidden
  • 403 forbidden request, forbidden by administrative rules
  • Access Denied. You don’t have permission to access

When you see a 403 Forbidden Error, the server understands your request but refuses to authorize it. It means the web page or resource you’re trying to open is off-limits. The request is valid, but the server denies access. We’ll uncover the causes of the 403 Forbidden error in the next section. We’ll also present two detailed tables of error types, descriptions, and variations to facilitate understanding this error.

What Causes the 403 Forbidden Error?

Understanding the error’s cause is key to pinpointing the issue precisely and applying the most effective solution. Let’s explore what might be causing this error. Once we’ve identified why it occurred, we’ll offer effective 2024 methods for fixing it in the next sections.

1: File and Folder Permission Mix-up

One of the primary causes of the 403 Forbidden error is when the files and folders on a website are not set up correctly in terms of permissions. It means that users might not have the necessary permissions to access certain parts of the website, resulting in the server denying their request and triggering the error.

2: Understanding the 403 Forbidden Error

Ever tried to access a web page only to be met with a “403 Forbidden” error? It can be frustrating, right? This error message means the server understands your request but refuses to authorize it for various reasons. Let’s dive into what could be causing this issue and how you can resolve it.

3: Misconfigured File and Folder Permissions

One of the primary causes of the 403 Forbidden error is when the files and folders on a website are not set up correctly in terms of permissions. It means that users might not have the necessary permissions to access certain parts of the website, resulting in the server denying their request and triggering the error.

4: Corrupt .htaccess File

The .htaccess file is essential for managing a website’s URL structures and access permissions. However, if this file becomes corrupted due to misconfiguration or malware, it can disrupt the normal functioning of the server and lead to a 403 error.

5: Missing Index Page

Every website typically has an index.html or index.php file, which serves as the default homepage template. If this file is missing from the website’s directory, attempts to access the homepage may result in a 403 Forbidden error.

6: Incompatible WordPress Plugin

For WordPress websites, compatibility issues or misconfigurations with plugins can often lead to the 403 error. Conflicts between different plugins or incorrect configurations of individual plugins may trigger this issue.

7: Incorrect IP Address

Sometimes, the domain name might point to an inaccurate IP address, leading to access restrictions imposed by the website hosted on that IP. In such cases, users may encounter the 403 Forbidden error when trying to access the site.

8: Malware Scan and Security Measures

Websites equipped with security measures, such as malware scans, may restrict access to specific resources to prevent malicious attacks. However, these security protocols could inadvertently block legitimate users, resulting in a 403 error.

Following this explanation above, two detailed tables are  presented here. These tables will categorize error types, provide corresponding descriptions, and illustrate variations, offering a thorough understanding of the error.

 

Error Type Description/Causes General Error Code
Empty Website Directory This error occurs when there is no index.php or index.html page. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”
Missing Index Page The error may occur if the homepage name isn’t index.html or index.php. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”
Permission/Ownership Errors Incorrect permission settings or ownership can cause the 403 error. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”
Incorrect .htaccess File Settings If the .htaccess file settings are incorrect, it can lead to a 403 error. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”
Malware Infection If the website is infected with malware, it can cause a 403 error. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”
Cached Outdated Webpage If the webpage is outdated in the cache, it can lead to a 403 error. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”
Faulty Plugin If a plugin is faulty or incompatible, it can cause a 403 error. “403 Forbidden”, “HTTP 403 Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403 – Forbidden”, “HTTP Error 403.14 – Forbidden”

 

Error Code Variations Description/Causes Cause
403 A common type of error occurs when a web server understands the request access but does not respond to it. The server understands the request but refuses to authorize it.
403.1 It represents “Execute Access Forbidden.” The server does not allow request execution of server-side operations, executable files, CGI, etc.
403.2 It is “Read Access Forbidden.” The server does not allow users to access and read the resource content.
403.3 It is “Write Access Forbidden.” The server does not allow users to write or modify the resource content.
403.4 An “SSL Required” error. A user must have a secured HTTPS connection to access the resources.
403.5 It is an “SSL 128 Required” error. Only allows users with minimum 128-bit encryption for SSL connection.
403.6 The “IP Address Rejected.” The server has blocked the IP address of a user.
403.7 It is “Client Certificate Required.” The client must provide a valid identification certificate for a secure connection.
403.8 It is “Site Access Denied.” The server has denied access to the specified Uniform Resource Locator (URL).
403.9 It is “Too many users.” The maximum allowed number of users are already connected to the server.
403.10 It is “Invalid configuration.” The request cannot be processed because of an invalid configuration on the server.
403.11 It is “Password Change.” The user must change their password before they can access the requested resource.
403.12 It is “Mapper Denied Access.” The client certificate is either not trusted or is invalid.
403.13 It is “Client Certificate Revoked.” The supplied client certificate has been revoked.
403.14 It is “Directory Listing Denied.” The server is configured to deny a directory listing.
403.15 It is “Client Access Licenses Exceeded.” The number of client access licenses for the server has been exceeded.
403.16 It is “Client Certificate Untrusted or Invalid.” The supplied client certificate is not trusted or is invalid.
403.17 It is “Client Certificate Has Expired or Is Not Yet Valid.” The supplied client certificate has expired or is not yet valid.
403.18 It is “Cannot Execute Requests from That Application Pool.” The current request cannot be executed in the application pool that is specified by the site.
403.19 It is “Cannot Execute CGIs for the Client in This Application Pool.” The client browser does not support the CGI for the current request.
403.20 It is “Passport Logon Failed.” The Passport logon failed.

 

You must consider that sometimes the error message you see can vary depending on the specific circumstances and the configuration of the server.

What are the Potential Consequences of the 403 Forbidden Error?

Encountering a 403 Forbidden Error can have various consequences. This error isn’t just a roadblock—it’s a headache for users, businesses, and developers. Reliability, trustworthiness, and user satisfaction build a website’s reputation. When users encounter a 403 error, they’re essentially locked out of accessing what they need. For businesses, especially those operating e-commerce platforms, every lost opportunity for user interaction can directly translate into lost revenue. Additionally, facing 403 errors can hinder search engine bots from properly indexing the site, negatively impacting its search engine rankings. Let’s explore these consequences in more detail: 

  • Access Denied: This is the most obvious consequence. Users are blocked from reaching the page they want. It’s frustrating because the server knows what they are asking for but refuses to give it.
  • Website Functionality: If the 403 error pops up all over a website, it can severely hinder its functionality. Users may find it challenging to access content or services, leading to frustration and diminished user experience.
  • SEO Impact: When search engines encounter these errors, they get confused. They might not index the site properly, which means it won’t show up in search results like it should.
  • User Experience: Imagine repeatedly bumping into this error on a site you like. It’s annoying, right? Users might give up on the site altogether, hurting its popularity and traffic.
  • Business Impact: Particularly for e-commerce sites, a 403 error on critical pages like the checkout can directly lead to a loss of sales. People start to think it’s unreliable or poorly managed, damaging the brand’s reputation and trustworthiness.
  • Developer Time: Troubleshooting 403 errors takes a lot of time from developers. Addressing widespread errors or identifying causes may require significant resources, impacting other development priorities and timelines.

How to Fix the 403 Forbidden Error?

In this section, we’ll guide you through twelve effective methods for fixing this error in 2024. Each troubleshooting step will be covered in detail to ensure you can efficiently address the issue on your site:

Remember, before you do anything, it’s best to get in touch with your hosting provider for help.

1- Refresh the Page and Double Check the Address

Sometimes simple solutions solve complex problems. Try refreshing the page you can’t access. The 403 error is often temporary, so you might get lucky.

Also, check that the URL is spelled correctly. If the address you’re trying to access is a directory and not a web page, you might encounter a 403 error.

 

2- Clear Your Browser Cache and Cookies

The browser cache helps websites load faster on future visits. But if the page’s link changes, it can mismatch with the cached version and cause a 403 HTTP status code. Browser cookies, which are small files that remember your preferences, can also cause the 403 Forbidden error.

Clearing cache and cookies forces the browser to request site files again, so you’ll need to sign in again on most websites.

  • Click the three-dot icon in the top right corner and select Settings.
  • Go to Privacy and Security → Clear browsing data. Use the drop-down menu to choose the time range. We recommend selecting All Time to remove all old files. Then, select Cookies and other site data and Cached images and files.
  • Click Clear data to erase them.

After doing this, try revisiting and logging into the problematic website to see if it fixes the error. This method also works for other errors, like the 400 Bad Request.

3- Disable Your VPN

 A virtual private network (VPN) can cause a 403 Forbidden error on websites that block access from VPN servers due to security or regional restrictions.

To check if this is the issue, disconnect your VPN temporarily and try accessing the webpage again. If this fixes the error, consider switching to a different VPN server or contact your VPN provider.

4- Disable CDN 

A content delivery network (CDN) is a network of servers that cache and deliver content from the closest web server to the user. This reduces load times and bandwidth usage.

If your website uses a CDN, it might cache a 403 Forbidden error due to file permissions, IP blocking, or incorrect .htaccess rules. Temporarily bypassing the CDN can help determine if the error is from the original web server or the CDN.

To troubleshoot a 403 Forbidden error by disabling the CDN, you might need to contact your hosting provider.

5- Scan for Malware

The .htaccess file is a web server configuration file that changes Apache web server settings. It’s located in your website’s root directory, public_html, and contains rules for how your website should behave, including who can access certain resources or pages.

If your WordPress site has malware, it can inject unwanted code into the .htaccess file. Changing these rules can cause the 403 HTTP status code.

Some hosting providers offer a built-in scanner to remove malware in WordPress. You don’t need to purchase third-party integrations because the automated tool can scan your websites for malware for free.

6- Checking the .htaccess File

Many people aren’t familiar with the .htaccess file because it’s hidden in the project directory. This file is a server configuration file that changes settings in the Apache Web Server.

If you use cPanel, you can access the .htaccess file through the File Manager. Here are the steps:

  • Go to the Hosting Control Panel and find File Manager.
  • Go to the public_html directory and look for the .htaccess file.

If you can’t find the file, click on Settings and enable the Show Hidden Files option.

If there’s no .htaccess file, you can create one manually. Once you find the file, follow these steps:

  • Download the .htaccess file to your computer as a backup.
  • Delete the file after downloading.
  • Try to access your site.

If your site works, it means the .htaccess file was corrupt.

To create a new .htaccess file:

  • Log in to your CMS.
  • Go to Settings.
  • Click on Permalinks.

Without making any changes, press the Save button at the bottom of the page.

This should create a new .htaccess file. If this doesn’t work, try the next method.

7- Modify Your File Permissions

Each folder and file on your site’s server has unique file permissions that control who can:

Read (r) – see the data in the file or view the contents of a folder.

Write (w) – modify the file or add and delete files inside a folder.

Execute (x) – run the file as a script or access a folder and perform functions and commands.

These permissions are indicated by a 3-digit number, with each digit showing the level of permission for each category above.

Normally, these permissions just work for your site. However, if something gets messed up with the file permissions, it can cause the 403 Forbidden error.

To view and modify your site’s file permissions, connect via FTP or SFTP. You might need to contact your hosting provider for help with this. Altering file permissions is a delicate task that can affect your website’s security and accessibility. Take extra care when resetting these permissions to protect your website against threats.

The ideal permissions for WordPress are:

  • Directories: 755 or 750.
  • Files: 644 or 640.
  • wp-config.php: 600

Here’s how to change file permissions:

  • Use either an FTP client or the file manager from your hosting control panel to reach your website’s files.
  • Locate the main directory of your WordPress setup. You’ll typically find folders like wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes here.
  • Right-click on the wp-admin, wp-content, and wp-includes folders. Choose ‘File Permissions‘ or a similar option. Set the numeric value to 755 or 750. Apply this to directories only. Most FTP clients can apply the permission changes to subdirectories automatically.
  • For files, follow a similar method: set permissions to 644 or 640. Make sure wp-config.php is set to 600 for better security.
  • After tweaking permissions, refresh your website to see if the 403 error persists.

If your FTP client allows it, think about altering file permissions in bulk to save time. Just be careful and ensure you’re only adjusting permissions for WordPress files and directories.

8- Disable WordPress Plugins

Plugins add extra features and functionalities to your website. But sometimes, they don’t play well with each other or with the main WordPress setup, causing headaches like the 403 Forbidden Error.

When things go wrong, turning off plugins is a smart move to figure out if one of them is causing the trouble.

Turning off plugins helps:

  1. Sorting Out Conflicts: By turning off all plugins, you can see if the error is because they’re clashing with each other.
  2. Step-by-Step Solution: Once the problem clears up without plugins, you can start turning them back on one at a time to pinpoint the troublemaker.

Here is how to turn off WordPress plugins:

  • Use FTP or the File Manager in your hosting control panel to get into your site’s files.
  • Head to the /wp-content/ folder and locate the plugins directory.
  • Change the name of the plugins directory to something like plugins_old. This switcheroo shuts down all plugins at once because WordPress can’t find them anymore.
  • After making the switch, check your website to see if the 403 error is still hanging around. If your site is back to normal, you know a plugin was causing the problem.
  • Switch the plugins_old directory back to plugins. Then, go into the WordPress dashboard and activate each plugin one by one. Keep checking your site after each activation to find the misbehaving one.

9- Checking the A Record

If you’re seeing a 403 Forbidden error, it could be because your domain is directed to the wrong IP address, which blocks your access even if your login details are correct. To avoid this, make sure your domain is pointing to the correct IP address provided by your hosting company. Modifying a current A record might impact any services or subdomains that rely on it. If adjusting the current A records doesn’t fix the error or cause issues elsewhere, you might want to think about making a new one.

10- Update Nameservers

If you’ve switched to a new hosting provider, you might have forgotten to make sure your domain’s nameservers are up-to-date. What could happen? Well, your domain might still be pointing to the old host, which could result in encountering a 403 error status code.

To fix this hiccup, what you need to do is update your domain’s nameservers.

11- Editing File Ownership

Sometimes, having the wrong file ownership can lead to a 403 Forbidden error, especially on Linux-based computers or VPS hosting. If you’re using a VPS with SSH access, you can change the file ownership by connecting your VPS to an SSH client like PuTTY.

Once you’re connected to the SSH server, you can check the ownership using this SSH command:

ls -l [file name]

The result will look something like this:

-rwxrw-rw- 1 [owner][group] 22 Sep 22 10:00 filename.txt

Pay attention to the owner and group sections. The correct ownership should match your hosting account’s username. If it doesn’t, you can use the chown Linux command to adjust the file ownership.

Here’s the basic syntax for the chown command:

chown [owner][:group] [file name]

For example, if your username is John, you can use this command:

chown John filename.txt

FAQs

What is a 403 Forbidden error?

A 403 Forbidden Error occurs when a web page or resource you’re trying to access is not allowed to be accessed. The web server understands your request but will not fulfill it. This error uses the HTTP status code 403 to describe this situation. For further details, please refer to the comprehensive explanations provided in this article.

Does a 403 error mean you’re blocked?

No, a 403 error does not necessarily mean you are blocked. It indicates that you cannot access the website’s content for some predetermined reason. To address this issue, you can contact the website hosting provider or follow specific troubleshooting steps that we have provided for you in this article.

How to Fix 403 Forbidden Errors on Google Chrome?

To resolve the 403 Forbidden Error on Google Chrome, try the following steps:

  1. Clear Browser Cookies.
  2. Check the URL and Reload.
  3. Review Website Permissions.
  4. Disable VPN or Proxy.

If the error persists, contact the Website Administrator.

Remember, before you do anything, it’s best to get in touch with your hosting provider or the website administrator for help.

Why am I getting a 403 Forbidden error?

You might get a 403 Forbidden error because you’re trying to access something you’re not permitted to access. Possible reasons include incorrect login details, lack of permissions, or the website blocking your access.

To resolve this, check your credentials and the URL, or contact the website for help. The error could be due to properly or improperly set access permissions by the web server owner. For more information, refer to the section ‘What Causes the 403 Forbidden Error?’ in this article.

How Can I Identify the Root Cause of a 403 Forbidden Error?

To identify the root cause of a 403 Forbidden error, you can:

  • Review the URL.
  • Inspect the server logs.
  • Check the .htaccess file.
  • Examine the server permissions.
  • Look for a corrupt .htaccess file.
  • Check for incorrect file permissions.
  • Investigate any plugin issues.
  • Check for an incorrect or outdated IP address hosting the site.
  • Look for a faulty security plugin.
  • Verify if the site is blocked or restricted by the server.

Is error 403 temporary?

A 403 error can be temporary. It often occurs when a web server is undergoing maintenance, receiving updates, or experiencing a transient glitch. However, other factors and reasons might contribute to this error. We have detailed these causes in the section ‘What Causes the 403 Forbidden Error?’ in this article.

Is a 403 Error Always Due to Server-Side Issues?

A 403 Forbidden Error usually indicates a problem with the website itself. However, sometimes the problem might be on the client’s end. It occurs when the server understands the request but refuses to authorize it.

Can Specific Hosting Configurations Lead to 403 Errors?

Yes, specific hosting configurations can sometimes lead to 403 errors. For instance, server-side issues such as mod_security rules or server misconfigurations can cause the problem.

How Do Content Management Systems Like WordPress Influence 403 Errors?

In CMS platforms like WordPress, 403 errors can arise from plugin or theme conflicts, incorrect file permissions within the WordPress directory, or issues with the WordPress core files.

Can Incorrect DNS Settings Cause 403 Forbidden Errors?

Yes, incorrect DNS settings can contribute to a 403 Forbidden Error. If there is an issue with the DNS settings, your browser may be unable to establish a connection, resulting in a 403 Forbidden Error.