When you create a new website, you need a theme and plugins to make it work.
Some themes and plugins come for free, and others cost a few dollars. With that said, you might find yourself having to buy multiple products for your site, which can cost you quite a sum of money.
However, this is where a lot of people fall into the temptation of using nulled WordPress themes and plugins instead of buying them just because they come for free. But doing so will be at the expense of your website’s health and can cause severe damage.
For instance, your website can get suspended by your hosting provider, blacklisted by Google on the search results, and even your IP address can get blacklisted. This can cause all your outgoing emails to fall into the spam folders of your recipients.
This is often one the reason why many websites get hacked.
In this article, we will be explaining to you why you should avoid using nulled products on your website.
- 1) What are WordPress nulled themes and plugins?
- 2) Risks of using WordPress themes and plugins
- 3) How to scan a WordPress theme for malicious code?
- 4) Conclusion
What are WordPress nulled themes and plugins?
The term “Nulled” refers to premium themes and plugins that have been stripped from their authorship and any kind of license verification.
Basically, this means that these are the Pirated copies of the original and premium paid versions. When you read pirated, you think hacker, which is exactly right.
In this case, the hacker acquires a plugin or a theme, and they inject it with their own malicious code that serves one of the following purposes.
Here are a few reasons why hackers put nulled themes and plugins out there for free:
- To redirect your blog to spam websites
- To add their advertisements and banners
- To get backlinks from your blog in the background
- To get access and control your blog
- To lock you off your site to ask for a ransom
- To send spam emails
- To steal your user’s data
- To simply get your website down
- or to use your server’s resources which can eventually lead to an excess in bandwidth consumption.
So as you can see, using nulled themes comes at a high price. Hackers use them to serve their own personal interests.
While doing so, this can have a significant impact on your site and eventually damage it. Sadly, thousands of nulled extensions are downloaded to WordPress sites every day.
Now, let’s see the consequences that Nulled plugins can have on your website.
Risks of using WordPress themes and plugins
1. Malware Infection
You can be sure that most of the nulled products have malware within them. There are two primary types of malware.
Backdoors, which serve as a way for hackers to access your site. Injections, mostly used for advertisement and SEO purposes. All those types can be hard to detect.
If you have multiple websites on the same hosting account, then there is a big chance that one infected site will contaminate all the others.
To get rid of malware, and remove any vulnerabilities, you have to clean your site from all injected malicious lines of code inside your files. This can be either in your WordPress core files, your themes files, or your nulled plugin.
2. Privacy Issues
If you are running an online business where you have a list of clientele, such as a membership site or a list of buyer’s accounts from your shop. Then you are vulnerable to have these data stolen and shared with other hackers.
Especially if you are not using any SSL certificate for your site. Then this can cause personal data leakage such as payment details of your customers, which can cause them a lot of harm (ex: blackmailing, money theft, etc…)
3. No Access to Updates
One of the cons of having a nulled product is that you can never have the possibility to update it. You’ll be stuck with the same version with no option to upgrade it.
By not updating your plugins or themes, that means there won’t be any new bug fixes, you won’t benefit from new features. Most importantly, you can forget about new security updates.
Another factor to take into consideration is compatibility. As time passes by and you keep updating your WordPress core files along with your theme or plugins, at some point, your nulled product will become with time outdated. It won’t be able to work correctly with your site, which can, in some cases, make your site crash.
4. No Access to Support and Documentation
When you use a nulled product, you are on your own. If you need any guidance or documentation for the product, no one will be willing to help you since you didn’t buy the developer’s product.
Most of the nulled products have bugs. If you encounter any problems and you are in need of help, the developers of the theme or the plugin will refuse to fix your problem or assist you in any way, simply because you haven’t bought their product’s license legally. Therefore you won’t be legitimate to get any support from them.
5. Bad for SEO
When you use a nulled theme, your site will start sending signals and behaving differently than it was on the background, without you noticing, and Google will pick up on that.
One of these signals can be hidden backlinks in your site that point to spam websites. Your domain name is redirecting to another shady site or the presence of malicious codes within your pages.
All of these elements are a red flag to Google that’s seen as your site is distributing malware. Which will eventually cause you a severe penalization and will drop your site’s rankings significantly. Or even worse, your domain will get blacklisted, which means de-indexed, you’ll no longer be seen in the search engines.
Knowing that you can see more clearly how this can hurt your online business. Mainly if you depend on bringing new prospects from organic traffic, then this will inevitably hurt your brand’s image and cost your business a lot of money.
6. Legal Issues
Nulled themes are stolen premium versions of the original. Anything that is stolen is illegal.
Using a pirated version of the product can actually bring serious legal issues, because they are under copyright laws. If the developers of the product decide to file a complaint against you. Then you may find yourself having to pay a big sum of money.
So if you are serious about your business, do it the right way and invest in premium WordPress products, so this won’t cost you any headaches or your business later on.
7. They do not work properly
Another common issue is Bugs.
Because these products have been injected with malicious codes that can compromise with its functionality, and it comes most of the time outdated for your current version of WordPress. When that’s the case, then there is a big chance that they may not work properly on your site.
What’s worst, some plugins and themes might seem to work properly at first, but then as you dive deeper, you will find out that they crash at a particular stage. Sometimes, this can go unnoticed, until you find out through the claim of one of your clients.
So this can be quite a hustle. Every time a new bug appears, you are going to have to fix it yourself.
NOTE: Sooner or later, your themes and plugins will become buggy, it’s inevitable. Simply because they will quickly get outdated.
NOTE 2: By buying the original version, the developers of the product will fix any issue there is under in a short amount of time without you having to actually do anything.
8. No Access to new features
Just as mentioned earlier, nulled products don’t have automatic updates. Therefore, you won’t be able to improve and benefit from the latest features that the plugin or theme has to offer.
9. Decrease in speed performance
It is common that the use of pirated themes or plugins can slow down your site significantly, simply because it is running an ongoing script on the background, which naturally consumes a lot of your server’s resources.
To give you a better idea, here are a few scenario cases of what kind of activity may be happening on the background:
- Mass spam email sending (in thousands)
- Code injection for running Ads
- Broken code lines that slow down the process (poor coding by the hackers)
- Background scan of your server’s files and creation of new malicious files in your directories
How to scan a WordPress theme for malicious code?
If you are familiar with your hosting environment, then you can inspect your files for suspicious codes with malicious PHP scripts like base64, eval, stripslashes, move_uploaded_file. If you find any of the mentioned functions, especially on the top of your document. Then, there is a big chance that the file is infected by malware.
Another great way of doing this is to zip the theme or plugin directory that you wish to inspect. Download it locally to your computer to scan and detect malicious codes.
If any plugins can detect all kinds of malware, it’s these two plugins combined. We have used them in the past several times for our clients, and they never disappoint. They are great for scanning nulled plugins and themes.
Sometimes, malware can prevent you from accessing your WordPress dashboard, and your database might get infected as well. In that case, for advanced users, we highly recommend that you check our Step-by-step guide on how to go through this cleaning process.
As you can see, using a nulled product can be a high security risk for your website and business overall. So avoid nulled themes and plugins. They are not worth it!
Remember that there is always a clean free, or premium alternative out there. But make sure that if you decide to download a free theme or a free plugin. Double check that it’s from WordPress.org depository, or a famous theme markets (like Themeforest) or other well-known theme developer’s websites.
We trust that you will do the right thing 😉
With that said, we hope our article has helped you become more aware of the dangers of nulled and why you must not use it. If you have any opinion on the topic, feel free to leave us your comment. 😉