A common request that may result in a 403 Forbidden response is a HTTP GET request for a web page performed by a web browser to retrieve the page for display to a user in a browser window. The web server may return a 403 Forbidden status for other types of requests as well.
The Apache web server returns 403 Forbidden in response to requests for URL paths that correspond to file system directories when directory listings have been disabled in the server and there is no Directory Index directive to specify an existing file to be returned to the browser. Some administrators configure the Mod proxy extension to Apache to block such requests and this will also return 403 Forbidden. Microsoft IIS responds in the same way when directory listings are denied in that server. In WebDAV, the 403 Forbidden response will be returned by the server if the client issued a PROPFIND request but did not also issue the required Depth header or issued a Depth header of infinity
Status codes 401 (Unauthorized) and 403 (Forbidden) have distinct meanings.
A 401 response indicates that access to the resource is restricted, and the request did not provide any HTTP authentication. It is possible that a new request for the same resource will succeed if authentication is provided. The response must include an HTTP WWW-Authenticate header to prompt the user-agent to provide credentials.
A 403 response generally indicates one of two conditions: