Nulled WordPress Themes & Plugins: There’s A Catch


Nulled WordPress Themes And Plugins

A nulled plugin or theme is not worth the risk, even if you have a good malware and vulnerability scanner

On the surface, nulled plugins or themes might seem like a good option. Maybe you can’t afford the original plugin or theme. Maybe you just want to ‘test-drive’ a plugin or theme before making a purchase. But it’s too good to be true. Your website is essentially a ticking time bomb with nulled plugins or themes. 

In this article, we will delve into everything you need to know about nulled plugins and themes and how to keep your site safe. 

TL;DR: Using nulled plugins and themes can expose your site to hackers and malware. The risks outweigh any short-term benefits. Stick to legitimate sources for your plugins and themes to keep your site safe and secure. Scan your site immediately if there has even been a nulled add-on on your site. 

Nulled plugins or themes are far more dangerous than you might realize. It almost always has malware that can steal data. If you can identify malicious code, it’s possible to avoid the malware. But this task is daunting, time consuming, and at the risk of human error. There are also a lot of tools that claim to help you identify malware in nulled plugins and themes, or offer safe software. But, none of them are reliable. 

The allure of nulled plugins and themes can be tempting for website owners looking to enhance functionality without tapping into their budget. However, the hidden costs associated with these nulled products often overshadow their initial appeal. 

What are nulled plugins and themes?

Scan your site for malware if your site has or had a nulled plugin or theme. 

Nulled plugins and themes are unauthorized versions of legitimate premium software. These plugins and themes have been modified to bypass system checks or licensing requirements that would normally require payment or a subscription. 

It often has backdoors or malware that is obfuscated. This approach encodes parts of the code to make it less readable and more challenging to detect any malicious activity embedded within.

It can hide functions that might compromise the website’s security, inject malicious software, or steal sensitive data.

These nulled plugins and themes are distributed by individuals who may have originally purchased the plugin legally or possess the technical expertise necessary to bypass security features and crack the original code.

So, once more for the people in the back, do not install nulled plugins or themes. They are very dangerous.

Risks of nulled plugins and themes

There are a lot of security risks with using nulled plugins and we recommend that you scan your WordPress site and clean all the malware first. But, if the morality of stealing from a hardworking developer doesn’t deter you, there are numerous practical risks that may change your mind. Here’s why you should avoid using nulled WordPress plugins and themes:

  1. Malicious code risks: Nulled plugins and themes almost always contain hidden malicious code. This might include backdoors that allow hackers to gain unauthorized access to your site, potentially leading to data theft or loss. Once inside, hackers can propagate malware throughout your site, infecting various parts. This means that a simple uninstall of the plugin is not enough. 
  1. Absence of updates: Genuine plugins and themes typically receive regular updates from developers. These updates address security vulnerabilities, introduce new features, and ensure compatibility with the latest WordPress versions. Nulled versions do not provide these updates, which can lead to security and functionality issues over time.
  1. Incompatibility issues: Without regular updates, nulled plugins and themes eventually become incompatible with new versions of WordPress and other add-ons. This can break your site or key functionalities, leading to a poor user experience and additional maintenance headaches.
  2. Lack of support and documentation: When you encounter issues with nulled plugins or themes, you have no official support or detailed documentation to rely on. Resolving problems can require extensive troubleshooting that requires technical knowledge. 
  3. Hosting risks: Many web hosting providers scan for nulled software. If they find unauthorized plugins or themes on your site, they might flag or even suspend your account due to security concerns, leading to downtime and potentially impacting your business.
  4. SEO penalties: Search engines like Google strive to provide users with safe, high-quality content. If your site is compromised due to a nulled plugin or theme and starts hosting spam links or other malicious content, it could be penalized or blacklisted by search engines. This can dramatically decrease your site’s visibility and organic traffic.
  1. Performance degradation: Nulled plugins or themes often contain poorly written code or additional unnecessary scripts that can slow down your site. This performance hit not only affects user experience but can also impact SEO rankings.

Check if a plugin or theme you installed is nulled

New users may not even know if a plugin or theme they’ve installed is nulled or not. The easiest way to be safe is to run your site through a malware scanner. However the lack of awareness is doubly dangerous because no precautions were taken to ensure that site files are safe. This is why we recommend you follow this checklist:

  • Verify the license: Always install plugins and themes from trusted sources. Stick to the WordPress repositories for freemium plugins and themes. Install plugins and themes straight from the original developers.
  • Check for updates: Regularly updating your plugins and themes helps maintain security and functionality. So you should be looking for updates anyway. But, a lack of updates could be indicative of the plugin or theme being nulled.
  • Use a malware scanner: Run your site through a reputable malware scanner to detect hidden malicious scripts or vulnerabilities. MalCare’s scanner is able to pick up all malware, even zero day ones, from all files and databases. Have we mentioned that it is free?

Remove malware present because of nulled software

If your website has been hacked due to malware from a nulled plugin or theme, it’s crucial to act swiftly to mitigate any damage and secure your site from further attacks. Here is a step-by-step guide on what to do:

  1. Uninstall the nulled plugin/theme: The first step is to immediately remove the compromised plugin or theme from your WordPress site. This prevents any further execution of malicious code.
  2. Scan your site: Use a comprehensive security solution like MalCare’s scanner. This tool can efficiently identify all traces of malware, backdoors, and other security vulnerabilities present on your site. Even if you’ve uninstalled the plugin, run a scanner because it is possible that the malware impacts other files too.
  3. Clean your site: After identifying the malicious elements, use a malware cleaner to remove it. MalCare’s premium plans have a really powerful malware cleaner. All it takes is one click and is very easy to use. They also have a team of experts that can remove any malware that the cleaner is struggling with. 
  1. Install a firewall: As a proactive measure, we recommend that you install a firewall. MalCare’s firewall is automatically installed with the free version. It can block zero-day attacks and protects you from bots as well. 
  1. Install the original plugin/theme: If the compromised plugin or theme is essential for your site, make sure to go back and install the authentic version directly from a reputable source. This ensures you get the legitimate software that is free from malware, with access to official support and updates.

GPL and nulled plugins and themes

The legality of nulled plugins and themes are a gray area because of the GPL, or the General Public License. But we still do not recommend that you install it. There are still high chances of malware on your site. So, we recommend you install MalCare and implement the scanner.

The GPL allows the freedom to use, modify, and redistribute software. Since WordPress and many of its plugins and themes are distributed under GPL, technically, anyone can legally modify the code of a GPL-licensed plugin or theme and either share or sell their version. 

However, a common misconception is that being under the GPL makes nulled items entirely free and without legal restrictions. The term “nulled” signifies that the software has been tampered with to remove or deactivate licensing checks. These checks are implemented by developers to protect their business model, particularly around receiving updates and support. This tampering bypasses the developer’s rights and, while it may not violate the GPL itself, it often involves violating copyright provisions attached to other parts of the software not covered by GPL, such as images or proprietary scripts.

While nulled themes and plugins are not technically “pirated” due to their GPL status, you should not use them. You might not be breaking the license law under the GPL by using nulled software, but you are certainly bypassing the software’s intended usage policy. Nulled software lacks official support and updates, posing significant security risks and ethical concerns; it undermines the developers’ ability to fund continued development and support of the software.

Why would a plugin or theme be nulled?

A more alarming incentive for distributing nulled plugins and themes is malicious intent. This is why we recommend you remove all the malware and install MalCare’s firewall. Malicious actors might modify the original code to insert backdoors, adware, or malware. When unsuspecting users install these corrupted versions on their websites, the modified code can be used to collect sensitive information. This could include user data, login credentials, and financial information. This data can be used for various nefarious purposes, ranging from identity theft to direct financial exploitation.

Some individuals or groups null premium plugins and themes to bypass licensing fees, then redistribute these nulled versions to make money. They might charge users for downloading the nulled plugin or theme or use free downloads as a way to amass website traffic that they can monetize through ads. In this scenario, the wrongful resellers profit directly from the developers’ original work without distributing any earnings to them.

Both cases highlight the critical risks and high cost of opting for a nulled theme or plugin. While it might seem like a cost-saving measure, the potential repercussions, including severe security breaches and legal ramifications, can be dramatically more expensive than investing in a legitimately purchased product.

Final thoughts

While nulled WordPress plugins and themes may seem attractive for their affordability, the ultimate price paid could be substantially higher. Often, the only parties benefiting from your use of these themes are hackers—who may exploit built-in vulnerabilities for data theft—and the developers you may later need to hire to rectify the ensuing security mess. Opting for legitimate sources supports ethical development practices and secures your website and data. In essence, when it comes to WordPress plugins and themes, cutting corners can cost far more than it saves.


What is a nulled theme in WordPress?

A nulled theme in WordPress refers to a premium theme that has been modified to remove its licensing restrictions. These themes are typically distributed unofficially instead of through the original developer or authorized marketplaces. The main catch with nulled themes is that they lack critical support, updates, and security measures provided by genuine products.

Is it safe to use a nulled WordPress theme?

Using a nulled WordPress theme is generally not considered safe. When you use nulled themes, you expose your website to several risks including:

  • Security vulnerabilities: Nulled themes may contain malicious code, which could lead to a compromised site. Hackers often use such code to spread malware, create backdoors, or steal data.
  • No updates: Unlike themes obtained through official channels, nulled themes do not receive updates. This can lead to compatibility issues with WordPress auto updates or more crucially, leave unresolved security flaws.
  • No support: If you face technical issues with a nulled theme, you’ll lack access to the developer support that accompanies purchased themes. Troubleshooting and optimizing your website can thus become significantly more challenging.

Are nulled themes legal?

Nulled WordPress themes are legally dubious. They often bypass paywalls intended for premium features. This violates developer copyrights despite WordPress’s GPL licensing. The GPL allows modification and redistribution of PHP code but other assets like CSS or images might have different restrictions.


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