In my routine daily server maintenance I noticed the CPU utilization was a little higher than usual. I traced this to an image connected to a sports news story on my California Dolphin website, my most popular site these days.
Someone posting a Chinese language comment about a basketball game linked to a photo of the action that is part of a story on our California news portal. Perhaps a California team was involved.
Because the other site gets a lot of traffic, requests for this hotlinked image are coming in at about a dozen per second. It only affects the server just enough to notice in a display of CPU activity, there is no harm involved. This does illustrate how hotlinking images can impact the host where the file resides.
Here is the popular photo