Encountered a nulled plugin or theme for WordPress, and started debating whether to use it? First, get familiar with the term. Nulled represents a modified, cracked, or pirated version of, in this case, a premium plugin or theme. They’re not meant to be just given out, and developers implement licenses and add various protections to code. However, tech-savvy users can remove such limitations, and the high-grade products become either free or sold at a steep discount. They are then freely distributed among friends and family, as well as via the Internet. With that out of the way, let’s get into 9 problems of the nulled themes and plugins.
We’ve discussed the legality in our article about who owns WordPress. So, while WordPress plugins and themes fall under GPL (General Public License), the premium versions have the legal right to be sold or licensed by the developers/creators. For that reason, it is illegal to use most pirated themes and plugins. We’d say legality is the least concerning problem of the pirated themes and plugins. Yes, it’s unethical, but it’s highly unlikely that the FBI will kick your door in. However, you will be responsible for all of the illegal activities the culprits do in your name.
Security risk is probably the most severe among the problems with the nulled themes and plugins. First of all, you don’t know who cracked the plugin or theme. It doesn’t have to be, and usually isn’t the person you got it from. Furthermore, unless you’re tech-savvy and take a good look at the code, you don’t know what’s in it, nor who put it there. In the long chain of distribution for it to get to you, at least one person likely implemented something malicious.
Why are nulled themes and plugins so dangerous?
We’ll start with malware, which will infect your website, then, most likely, your computer through spyware. It can also be a backdoor, allowing the perpetrator undisturbed, complete access to your WordPress website. You should only pray that your security plugin for WordPress does its job. In the best scenario, you’ll see nothing or errors like “This site ahead contains harmful programs”. In the worst, you can lose your entire site data. If you didn’t have a backup plugin for WordPress, you can say goodbye to all the hard work you’ve put in.
One of the problems of the nulled plugins and themes is when the problem doesn’t only affect you, but hundreds, even thousands of others. They can steal information in the background, which then ends up on members-only hacking forums or the dark web. You and other users who use the credentials for other accounts are immediately in jeopardy. Even worse, if you offered paid services, such as running an eCommerce business in WordPress or a membership-only website, their payment information can be compromised and consequently ruin their life.
4. Potential SEO disaster
When weighing the pros and cons of using nulled themes and plugins, try to remember the malicious code can hijack your website. It will then enact total control while you’re oblivious. For example, it can redirect your visitors to other links, or start spamming comments or creating posts and pages with external links. By editing your CSS, the perpetrator can make it so that you see no visual changes. Search engines can still see the code and quickly punish your website, and even de-index it eventually. Problem is, the culprit can also make it so that you’re the only one that can access the website normally. So, unless you check your ratings, access your website in Incognito, or use a different browser, you wouldn’t even notice.
5. No updates
Lack of a valid license means you can’t get the newest updates, which is one of the major nulled plugins and themes issues. You’ll miss out on a lot of quality of life improvements, new features, bug fixes, a security exploit patches, etc. You’ll also have to stop updating WordPress until a compatible cracked version of the theme/plugin comes out. The cracked version might also be incompatible with up-to-date legit themes or plugins. This can lead to instability or for you to be locked out of Admin Section or even unable to access your WordPress website via FTP.
6. No support or documentation
Another major issue with themes and plugins that are nulled is the absence of support or documentation from the developers. Premium themes and plugins are usually complex and have a host of unique features, some of which are hard to implement. Had you purchased a license, you’d get continuous help and answer to your questions, as well as official documentation to help you. Without it, you’re on your own. And because other developers frown upon cracking, don’t expect any external help.
7. Developers suffer
You’re hurting developers by using a cracked version of their plugins and themes. They invest time and effort, not only into development but also documentation and providing answers to the F.A.Q. They also have to pay to host, hire support staff, and have spent years of studying to get to that point. Although not every user of pirated plugins and themes would’ve been a customer otherwise, they’re still costing developers a lot of money.
8. Lack of innovation hurts everyone
The most far-reaching downside of nulled plugins and themes is that you affect the whole WordPress industry. Other developers, seeing what happens to their colleagues, might get discouraged from innovating or improving upon premium plugins or themes. Your activity might also demoralize them from creating free themes or plugins and contributing to the community.
9. No strong reasons to use them
The risks simply don’t outweigh the rewards of nulled plugins and themes. Whatever the look you’re going for, there’s almost always a similar WordPress theme you can install or a CSS modification you can apply. Similarly, there’s almost always a free alternative WordPress plugin you can install or a code snippet you can use.