Should You Use Nulled WordPress Themes And Plugins?
Want to know if nulled WordPress themes or nulled WordPress plugins are safe to use? Are you looking for a way to use pirated software without harming your site?
In the WordPress realm, nulled themes and plugins aren’t illegal and we’ll explain this in detail in this guide.
So, we understand how tempting it is to use nulled software as it gives you access to premium features for free. But nulled WordPress plugins and themes are often riddled with malware.
When you install them on your site, the risk of hackers breaking into your site is extremely high and the consequences are devastating. Fixing a hack and recovering from the damage caused by hackers is much more expensive than the cost of the plugin or theme.
But security is just one of the many reasons you should avoid nulled WordPress software. In this article, we’ll explain why you should stay away from nulled themes and plugins and we’ll show you alternatives you can use.
TL;DR: If you have a nulled WordPress theme or nulled WordPress plugin installed on your site, scan it for malware immediately. You can use our WordPress security plugin to run an instant and thorough scan of your site. If the plugin or theme has infected your site, it will alert you to take action to fix it.
What Are Nulled WordPress Themes And Plugins?
When you purchase a premium WordPress theme or plugin, you get a license to use it. This limits the use of the theme or plugin to only one website. You won’t be able to install it on multiple sites. Developers use licenses to protect their software from being purchased once and distributed to ‘friends and family’ freely.
But there are tech-savvy people who find ways to modify the software and bypass the license in order to use it on multiple sites. This modified version is called a pirated, nulled or cracked version of the original theme or plugin.
These pirated versions are distributed on several websites where anyone can download it for free. And there’s a high demand for them too because it’s free!
Are Nulled WordPress Plugins and Themes Legal?
Pirated software violates copyrights and licenses and, therefore, is illegal and has serious consequences that include fines and jail time. But there’s a catch when it comes to WordPress themes and plugins.
WordPress is an open-source software under the GPL2 license. This means any plugin or theme built for WordPress is GPL2 licensed as well.
Under this license, anyone is free to modify and re-publish the code including plugins and themes. So the person who modifies the plugin or theme is not doing anything illegal neither is the person using it.
But even so, there’s a possibility that the developer can sue depending on the laws of the country and the plugin’s licensing terms.
At the end of the day, nulled themes and plugins are basically stolen from developers by breaking the license.
But legality is the least of your worries when it comes to nulled WordPress plugins and nulled WordPress themes. As they say “nothing is free,” everything comes at a cost.
Have you ever wondered why someone would take the time to create and distribute nulled software for free? What’s in it for them?
Why Are WordPress Plugins and Themes Nulled?
Many WordPress sites are run by small businesses, bloggers, and newbies. Since their budgets are tight, they try to avoid paying for themes and plugins. There are also WordPress developers who create a sample site to get the client’s approval before they purchase the theme or plugins required. This is where demand for nulled versions of premium themes and plugins springs up.
Where there’s demand, there’s supply, but there’s also profit. Many of those who pirate software make money out of it or use it for malicious purposes:
1. The most common reason for people to distribute pirated software is to earn ad revenue on their websites. Some sites advertise and sell more illegal products.
2. Most people who download pirated versions don’t know they are risking malware and hackers breaking into their site. So it’s easy for hackers to use these ‘free versions’ to dupe people into installing malware on their sites.
3. They secretly collect sensitive and personal data which is later sold or exploited maliciously.
Remember, if a premium theme or plugin is offered for free, it’s free for a reason. Now that you have a better understanding of how and why people crack premium themes and plugins, we’ll show you why you shouldn’t use it.
5 Reasons You Should NOT Use Nulled WordPress Themes Or Plugins
Malware should be a good enough deterrent to not use nulled software. But there are plenty of reasons why using nulled plugins and themes is a bad idea. Here are five major reasons why you should avoid pirated themes and plugins:
1. Risk Of Security Breaches
When you download nulled themes and plugins from random websites, there is no guarantee that they are safe to use. There is no validation process, there are no reviews or any authority that governs such software.
Since there are no regulations on these sites, hackers can easily list their nulled software which will have malicious codes or malware injected inserted into it.
Sometimes hackers build their own websites to distribute hacked plugins and themes. The motive is to gain access to websites using these plugins and themes.
The malicious code can be programmed to do all sorts of things such as:
- Redirect your website’s visitors to other unknown sites. This can put your visitors in harm’s way.
- Create backdoors on your website. This will give hackers a secret entry into your site so they can come and go as they please.
These are just a few things they do among a long list of potential nefarious activities. There’s no telling what a nulled theme or plugin has in store for you.
2. Incompatibility Issues
WordPress is constantly developing its software and releasing new versions often. Plugins and themes follow suit and upgrade their software to ensure they are compatible with the WordPress core.
If you update WordPress and fail to update the nulled plugin or theme, it could cause compatibility issues. Your site can malfunction and break.
3. No Updates
As developers of the theme and plugin improve their software, they release updates from time to time. Updates contain new features, bug fixes, and most importantly, security patches.
When an update is available, you’ll see a notification in your WordPress dashboard like so:
If you update WordPress and fail to update the nulled plugin or theme, it could cause compatibility issues. Your site can malf
When you choose to use a nulled version of a theme or plugin, you will be disconnected from the developer. You won’t receive any updates. But what’s worse is you won’t receive a notification that an update is available.
So, the scariest part about all this is if a vulnerability is found in the software, you won’t be able to update to the new version to fix it. But you also won’t be aware that your site is vulnerable.
Once the vulnerability is announced and the security patch is released, hackers scan the internet for WordPress sites that are using the vulnerable version. It becomes easy for them to hack your site since they know what vulnerability is present.
4. No Support From The Developer
Generally, you can install plugins and themes on your own without any support or help. But there are cases when you need guidance.
Developers of premium plugins and themes offer support in which they answer customer’s questions and solve any issues they may be facing with the software.
So what happens if you face any issue with the nulled theme or plugin which only the developer can address? To state the obvious, you most certainly won’t be able to contact the developer for help.
5. Discourages Development And Innovation
In the WordPress community, many developers create plugins and themes to alleviate problems of WordPress users. They enjoy creating plugins and themes for WordPress. They create some really cool stuff that makes your website look and function better.
They strive to cater to every want and to solve every problem you could possibly face with your WordPress site. But this requires a significant investment of time, money, and effort.
Contributing to the success of nulled software discourages developers from making that investment. It can hamper innovation and further development of themes and plugins.
If premium plugins and themes are out of budget, you can opt for a free alternative. Many of the free themes and plugins are enough to create a beautiful and highly-functional site.
If you still decide to take the risk and go ahead with a nulled theme or plugin, (which we strongly suggest you don’t), there are a few measures you need to take to ensure your website remains safe.
How To Check If A WordPress Nulled Theme Or Plugin Has Malicious Code?
There are plenty of reasons why you may want to use a nulled version. You may want to use it only for a short period on your site and don’t want to invest in an annual plan. You may want to try the premium version to see if it fits your needs before you decide to buy it.
But we’ve already established that nulled versions can carry malware. So again, we strongly recommend you don’t use nulled software. However, if you still choose to go ahead, here’s what we suggest:
- If you have a nulled version of a theme and plugin already installed on your WordPress site, you need to scan for malware immediately.
- If you have a nulled version of a theme or plugin that you want to install on your site, we recommend testing it on a staging site. A staging site is a replica of your live site where you can experiment and make changes that will not affect your live site.
You can set up a staging site through your hosting account. With this method, there’s a risk of malware infecting your WordPress site and your server because the staging site is usually set up on the same server as your live site.
You can also use our sister plugin BlogVault to set up a staging site on a remote server with just one click. Your staging site will be created in under a few minutes.
Coming to the malware scan, the easiest and most effective way to run a scan is to use a WordPress security plugin. There are plenty of free and premium ones available in the WordPress repository.
But hackers who null and distribute software are aware that the end user might scan it before installing it. So they sneakily disguise or hide their malware. Plenty of times, scanners show false negatives for malware when the software actually has malware installed.
So even among these scanners available, you need to choose the right one that will be able to accurately detect malware even if it’s hidden or disguised. Next, we’ll show you:
1. How to choose a good WordPress security scanner
With so many security plugins out there, it becomes difficult to select a good one. Not every security plugin is capable of finding all the malicious codes in a nulled plugin or theme. So here’s what you need to know:
- Many scanners use a technique called signature or pattern matching scanners. These are outdated methods for detecting malware. In this, the scanner runs your website’s coding against a database of known malicious code. If it finds a match, it alerts you that it has found malware. This means if a hacker uses a new malicious code, the scanner cannot detect it.
- Some scanners search for malware only in particular folders and don’t search the entire site. Hackers know this and hide their code outside of these specific folders, the scanner will give you a false negative that the nulled software is free of malware.
- Many scanners entail a long process of set up and the scan can take hours. Plus, if the scanner uses your own server’s resources, it will slow your site down while it runs the scan.
Our MalCare plugin has a malware scanner that overcomes these challenges.
- MalCare doesn’t rely only on pattern matching. It uses intelligent signals to detect the behavior of code. This enables it to find any malware – new or old.
- MalCare will scan your entire site and its database in under a few minutes. It will sniff out hidden and disguised code as well.
- It’s easy to set up and use. Plus, it’s guaranteed to give you the right results on whether your theme or plugin is infected or not.
Next, we’ll show you how to use MalCare’s scanner, however, should you choose to use a different scanner, the steps will remain more or less the same.
2. How to detect malware in nulled plugins and nulled themes
As we mentioned before, setting up and using MalCare is easy:
Step 2: Next, access the MalCare dashboard and enter your email address. Select ‘Secure Site Now’.
Step 3: The plugin will redirect you to MalCare’s independent dashboard. The malware scan will run automatically. It usually takes just a few minutes to run.
Step 4: After the scan is complete, MalCare will display a page with your site’s information and results.
1. If it has found malware, you will see the following prompt:
You can promptly clean up your website immediately using the Auto-Clean function. We recommend deactivating and deleting any nulled software you’ve installed on your site. You will need to find an alternative or use the authenticate premium version.
Note: Malware removal is a complex process and requires technical expertise. With all plugins, malware removal is a premium feature. To use our malware removal service, you would need to upgrade to a premium plan.
2. If the nulled theme or plugin is free of malware, you should see the following prompt:
You can proceed to install the nulled software on your website. However, bear in mind the consequences apart from malware. You won’t get updates or support and can leave your site vulnerable to hackers.
The cons far outweigh any pros it may have. We’re confident you’ll make the right choice (the safer one!)
If you want more detailed information, you may find our guide on How to Scan and Detect Malicious Code helpful.
Using nulled WordPress themes and plugins can jeopardize your site and your business. It’s best to avoid them altogether. Here’s what we suggest:
1. There are plenty of free plugins and themes that you can trust available in the WordPress repository. Plugins and themes that are listed in the WordPress repository have to meet certain standards and security protocols before they are accepted on the platform. So when you download plugins and themes here, you can be sure that the software is clean and secure.
2. In addition, there are trusted developer’s official websites. These premium plugins depend on reviews of customers to further their business and endeavors. Such websites will ensure their plugin is safe to use.
3. There are also marketplaces like CodeCanyon and ThemeForest that are safer to use because they closely review the plugins and themes to ensure standards and guidelines are met before they list them for users to download.
Lastly, we recommend activating a security plugin such as MalCare on your WordPress site first. This plugin will proactively defend your website against hack attempts. It will scan your site regularly for malware and any suspicious activity.
You can rest assured your website is safe and secure from hackers.
Try our MalCare Security Plugin Now!
Melinda is a WordPress enthusiast, and enjoys sharing their experience with fellow enthusiasts. On the MalCare blog, Melinda distils the wisdom gained from building plugins to solve security issues that admins face.