Tempted to use a nulled WordPress themes or plugins?
Before you install them on your WordPress site, there are consequences you should consider.
Although it’s free upfront, nulled software (better known as pirated software) can cost you a lot. It can cost you everything.
Nulled themes and plugins are often riddled with malware and pose severe security risks to WordPress sites.When you install them on your site, you may be inviting hackers in. You risk damage to not only your site, but your business and your reputation.
Over and above that, getting hacked is just one reason why you shouldn’t use nulled software on your website. In this article, we explain the key reasons you should avoid nulled themes and plugins altogether. We will also show you how to test new plugins or themes for malware, and give you great alternatives to nulled software.
If you are already using a nulled theme or plugin and want to check if it contains malware, install our WordPress malware scanner. Within a few minutes, the plugin will tell you if the nulled theme or plugin is infected.
What Are Nulled WordPress Themes And Plugins?
Nulled themes and plugins are pirated versions of their legitimate versions. But WordPress software is often freely distributed, so what does ‘pirated’ mean in this context?
Every premium WordPress plugin or theme has a license which limits the use of this software to only one website. But there are tech-savvy people who find ways to modify the license so that it can be used on more than one website.
This modified version is called a nulled theme or nulled plugin.
Why Do Nulled WordPress Themes and Plugins Exist And Where To Find Them?
First launched in 2003, WordPress has made it easy for people without any technical abilities to build a website. Moreover, with the advent of shared hosting, it is now cheaper than ever to create a WordPress website. An unfortunate side effect is that this cultivates an environment where site owners don’t want to invest too much in building a website.
Premium WordPress themes and plugins may be out of budget, especially for site owners who are just starting out. And while there are free plugins and themes that site owners can choose from, free software is just not as powerful as their premium versions . This is why there is a demand for nulled themes and plugins.
Where there’s demand, there’s supply. But be warned, pirated software is often used for nefarious purposes, such as:
1. To trick people into downloading malware so hackers can break into their devices.
2. To earn revenue from ads. Often, these ads promote illegal products and adult content.
3. To collect personal data which is usually sold for a profit or exploited maliciously.
As nulled software is dangerous — and it’s basically stealing someone else’s code — you won’t find nulled themes and plugins in the WordPress repository. However, there are several websites offering pirated versions of premium plugins and themes. Anyone can download them for free.
Are Nulled Plugins and Themes Legal?
Coming to the most pressing questions: are nulled themes and plugins legal? Will you get into trouble for using them? Will you be sued if you use a nulled WordPress plugin or nulled WordPress theme?
Any pirated software bypasses the license, and therefore, violates copyrights and terms and conditions of use. This makes pirated software illegal and it carries serious consequences that include jail times and fines.
That said, this doesn’t technically apply to WordPress software. Why aren’t nulled WordPress themes and nulled WordPress plugins illegal?
- The WordPress core software falls under the GPL2 license. Further, it is an open-source software. Under this license, anyone is free to modify and re-publish the code.
- This is how plugins and themes are developed using the core software, and therefore, any plugin or theme built for WordPress is GPL2 licensed as well.
- So the person who creates the nulled versions isn’t doing anything illegal per se, and it isn’t illegal to use it either.
- But depending on the laws of the country and the plugin’s licensing terms, there’s a chance that the developer can sue.
In a nutshell, nulled themes and plugins are basically code stolen from the original developers. The license is broken and the nulled version is distributed for free.
But legal or not, pirated software is unsafe and could cause severe damage to your site. In the next section, we cover the reasons why such nulled plugins and themes can put your site in danger and put you at risk.
5 Reasons To Avoid Using Nulled Themes & Plugins
A broken license should be reason enough to stay away from nulled software. But there are other severe consequences to worry about. We discuss the top reasons why you shouldn’t use nulled themes and plugins:
1. Your Site Can Be Hacked
Nulled themes and plugins are notorious for being malware-infected.
The scariest lie often sold is that people pirate software out of goodwill so that everyone can have access to it. It’s easy to believe it because you benefit from it. But there’s always a price to pay.
Hackers can easily hide malware in nulled software and distribute it to thousands and thousands of unsuspecting users. So nulled software is often malware-infected, and just waiting to be activated.
Once you install the plugin or theme on your site, the malware infects your site and creates a backdoor that grants hackers access to your website.
So when you use a nulled theme or plugin, you are literally opening doors for hackers to enter your website.
If you would like to understand more about Malware Issues with a WordPress Site checkout our guide.
2. You Risk Security Flaws And Vulnerabilities
There are ways to scan nulled software to check for malware. We detail this later.
Unfortunately, even if it’s not not infected, it’s still not safe to use.
Developers of WordPress, as well as those of themes and plugins, toil away at improving and developing their software. Sometimes, bugs and security vulnerabilities creep in.
Once discovered, developers usually release a patch within a few hours. These patches are released in the form of Plugin & Theme updates. Users receive alerts to update their software. The new version replaces the old version and the vulnerability is fixed.
If you’re using a nulled version, and the software is shown to have a vulnerability, you won’t be able to update the software because you’re disconnected from the developer.
Additionally, once new versions are released, details of the vulnerability are made publicly available in the changelogs of these plugins and themes.
This means hackers are now aware — if they weren’t already — of the vulnerability and will find and hack websites that are using the vulnerable version.
3. You Won’t Get Any Support From The Developer
Generally, plugins and themes can be installed and used without any help or support. But there are times 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 issues with the nulled theme or plugin which only the developer can address? To state the obvious, since you’re using an illicit version, you most certainly won’t be able to contact the developer for help.
4. Compatibility Issues & No New Features
Most developers that create plugins and themes for WordPress are very active and constantly take measures to improve their software.
Over time, they add new features, improve the user interface, patch security flaws, and eliminate bugs.
Most importantly, they update their software to be compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
Take, for instance, BlogVault, our backup plugin. It was first launched nearly a decade ago. Over the years, we have introduced new features such as White-labeling Solution, Uptime & Performance Monitoring, etc.
We have also constantly updated the plugin to ensure that it works seamlessly with every new WordPress version. Each time we release an update, the user receives a notification on their dashboard.
But if you are using a nulled version of the plugin, you will never receive the update. This means you won’t receive new features nor will the plugin be fully compatible with the new WordPress version.
5. It Discourages Development
Plugins and themes take WordPress sites to new levels of performance, design, and functionality. Developers are passionate about their creations and spend time, energy, and money developing and maintaining them.
Nulled software is discouraging to developers as their hard work is stolen from them. Business that should be rightfully theirs is taken away.
We recommend using free legitimate alternatives instead of opting for nulled versions. There’s a plethora of free WordPress plugins and free WordPress themes. These plugins and themes are more than sufficient to create a highly-functional and beautiful-looking site.
If you’ve already installed a nulled version of a theme or plugin on your site, we suggest deleting it and finding an alternative.
If you still wish to take the risk and install the nulled theme or plugin, we strongly recommend that you scan it for malicious code.
How to Detect Malicious Code in Nulled WordPress Plugins And Nulled WordPress Themes?
There are multiple ways to scan a theme or plugin for malware. To start, there are plenty of free online scanners available:
- If you haven’t installed the nulled software on your site, you can download the file and scan it for free using online tools like VirusTotal.
- If you’ve already installed it on your site, you can use a free online website scanner like Quttera.
These tools help you do a quick scan of your file or website, but they don’t guarantee accurate results. To accurately detect malware in a nulled plugin or theme, here’s what we suggest:
IMPORTANT NOTE: In case you’ve already installed the plugin or theme on your WordPress site, you can skip step 1 and step 2 and move directly to scanning your site for malware immediately.
Step 1: Set Up A Staging Environment
A staging site is a clone of your live WordPress site where you can experiment and make changes that will not affect your live site.
A safe and secure way to set up a staging site is by using our plugin – BlogVault. Your staging site will be created in under a few minutes on a remote server that is independent from your live website.
Using a different server is important here because if the theme or plugin you’re about to scan is infected, it shouldn’t affect your website’s server. If you install malware on your server and your web host gets whiff of it, they’ll suspend your account and take your site down till you clean up the malware.
1. Install the BlogVault plugin on your WordPress site.
2. The plugin will direct you to its dashboard where it will automatically take a backup of your site.
3. Next, on the dashboard, you’ll see an option to Add Staging Site.
4. Once it’s ready, note down the staging site’s username and password. These credentials keep the site private and inaccessible to visitors and search engines.
5. Next, click on Visit Staging Site and you’ll be redirected to a new window. Enter the credentials you noted down to access your site.
6. Lastly, to access wp-admin, just add the words ‘wp-admin’ to the URL, like so:
That’s it. Your staging site is ready.
Step 2: Install the nulled WordPress plugin or nulled WordPress theme
1. Login to your staging wp-admin using the same credentials as your live WordPress site.
2. Download the nulled plugin or theme file from the third-party source you’re using.
3. Next, on your WordPress dashboard:
i) To install a plugin, go to Plugins > Add New > Upload Plugin.
ii) To install a theme, go to Appearance > Add New > Upload Theme.
4. Finally, once it’s installed on your site, activate it.
Step 3: Scan Your WordPress Site With A Reliable WordPress Security Scanner
There are plenty of scanners available on the WordPress repository. But not all of them deliver accurate results. Many scanners rely on outdated methods which hackers surpass easily.
We recommend using the MalCare plugin as it’s easy to set up and use, and it delivers accurate results in under a few minutes.
1. Install MalCare on your WordPress site.
2. On your WordPress dashboard, access the MalCare plugin, enter your email address. Select Secure Site Now.
3. You will be redirected to the MalCare dashboard. It will automatically run a thorough scan of your website.
4. When the scan is done, the results will show whether your site is clean or hacked. If it is clean, you will see the following screen:
In case your site is hacked, MalCare will alert you that it has found malware and prompt you to clean up your website immediately.
5. What do you do if the nulled theme or plugin is infected?
i) If you’re using a staging site, don’t install this nulled software on your live site. In fact, it’s important to delete the staging site entirely and the nulled software’s installation file immediately. Make sure it’s not in your trash bin. To be extra cautious, run a scan of your computer as well.
ii) If you are already using the nulled software on your live site and you’ve detected that it has malware, we suggest deactivating and deleting the nulled software immediately. You will need to find an alternative or use the authenticated premium version.
Next, use MalCare to clean your site by clicking on the Auto-Clean button. The automated cleaner will run through your site and clean any malware present.
Note: Malware removal is a complex process and requires technical expertise. As with all plugins, malware removal is a premium feature. To use our malware removal service, you would need to upgrade to a premium plan.
For more information on how to scan a WordPress theme or plugin, refer to our guide on How to Scan and Detect Malicious Code.
Ultimately, nulled WordPress themes and nulled WordPress plugins carry such high risk that they’re just not worth it.
Whenever you want to add any sort of plugins and themes to your WordPress site, we strongly recommend you test them out first. Using this process, you are ensuring the longevity of your website.
1. Taking a complete backup of your site. If things go wrong, you can restore your backup and get your site back to normal.
2. Using a staging site always! A staging site is an exact copy of your live site.
You can go crazy with your experiments and make as many changes as you want. None of it will affect your live site.
And if you want to replicate the staging changes on your live site, you don’t have to go through the whole process all over again. You can push your changes from staging to live easily in under a few minutes.
Backup And Stage Your WordPress Site Using BlogVault!