What they offer is usually nulled software. And if you download a paid theme for free, you are allowing yourself to hack the site. Here are some reasons why you should not install paid themes and plug-ins on the site for free.
What Are Nulled Themes and Plugins?
In this context, “nulled” refers to premium themes and plugins which have been stripped of any kind of authorship information and protection. This means that when you use a theme or plugin of this type, the original publisher is not notified that you are using it, and has absolutely nothing to do with the maintenance of software in question.
The basic principle is practically the same as what we’ve had for a while with the removal of technological restrictions that limit the control of users over digital media known as Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) or cracking with video games; rooting or jailbreaking with phones, etc. all with the intention of disassociating the particular software or device from the publisher charging for its use.
In the early days of this kind of piracy, cracked games, for instance, were often used to distribute different viruses. The fact that in the meantime several relatively reliable cracking communities have emerged is still no guarantee that the cracks you download are safe and malware-free.
Likewise, the world of pirated WordPress themes and plugins doesn’t seem to provide any kind of assurance of security to its users.
Who Is Making Them and Why?
First of all, it might seem that there are some people who are simply doing this out of the kindness of their heart or to make the world a better place. They’ve found an interesting theme, didn’t particularly feel like paying for it, decided to null it, and then instead of keeping it for themselves, shared it with the community.
While the publisher naturally finds this somewhat objectionable, you, as an end user may think that you shouldn’t fault the hacker in any way and just go for it. However, you ought to keep in mind that hackers always do it out of their own selfish motives and not because of some odd humanitarian reasons.
Normally, people, who do this, have a far less selfless motivation for sharing. You see, themes and plugins provide them with a great way to deliver malicious code to your site and that way earn the money they claim they’re not asking for.
While we won’t mention any particular sites, there are those which have worked out ways to earn money as legitimately as possible in this context, by serving ads to people interested in downloading something, or by charging a subscription fee.
These sites will do anything in their power to protect their reputation by detecting infected software and removing it from their offer, but even if you find a site you can trust, you should stay away from it, and here’s why.
Most often, nulled plugins and WP themes contain malware. Malicious code can be scattered across different files, which makes detection and correction very difficult. Due to the hacked nature of the plugin, you can generally lose site data. Moreover, the virus can spread to other sites on the server or hosting platform. Thus, by installing a paid theme for free, you can lose all of your sites or client sites. An extra bonus – your site can be removed from the index for distributing malicious code. You will see more on this later.
Nulled themes and plugins may contain code that steals data from the site. This can be names, emails, passwords, and other personal information of users who are registered on the site. This hacking is difficult to notice, because at first glance the site will work fine, and there will be no external signs of hacking.
#3 Bad for SEO
Nulled WP themes and plugins completely destroy your SEO efforts and use your website for so-called “black” SEO. Remember – not only a newly created website can be damaged, but also your other sites located on the same hosting platform.
Hacked WordPress themes can add spam links to the site or redirect your visitors to other sites. It is difficult to notice with the untrained eye, as the links are carefully hidden inside the code. It may happen that you, as the admin, will not be transferred anywhere when you log in to your WP account. As a result, you will not notice anything, and when you see it, it will be too late. Search engines will quickly notice strange activity and lower the site’s search rating, or even completely throw your site out of the index.
It may take several months to restore lost sites. Moreover, it is possible that instead of fixing the affected site you will have to build an entirely new site.
#4 Legal issues
When you use a nulled WP theme or plugin, you do it at your own risk, as you have no legal basis for it. In addition, as mentioned above, the use of hacked templates can lead to theft of personal data or the distribution of illegal materials. All of this can end with courts and lawyers.
#5 No access to updates
Compared to what was mentioned before, this is probably the smallest problem, especially if you have sufficient programming skills. However, the inability to update can be a real problem when your nulled theme or plugin becomes incompatible with the next WordPress update.
#6 Issues with support and documentation
Even the most advanced WordPress users require support and documentation in order to use premium themes and plugins in the proper way. The developers of such products provide support and manage documentation for users and spend lots of time on this. They hire support specialists to regularly answer questions. If you are using a nulled WP theme or plugin, then you are on your own. When you need help, you can’t ask developers to help you. You also do not have access to documentation and manuals, since they are presented only to paid customers.
#7 New features
As we have already mentioned, WP themes and plugins are updated on a regular basis, and rather often such updates include fresh features. If you use a pirated product, you cannot receive updates automatically, and will not even hear about these new features. They can greatly improve the site and help you make more money. However, you will not be aware of these changes, but rather stuck to the outdated version.
#8 Ethical or unethical?
Did your mother teach you that stealing is bad? Someone will make the argument that this is just a tiny piece of code, and then download it for free because they don’t have to spend money on it. Think about the fact that developers have invested their time, work, and abilities into this tiny piece of code.
Using nulled WP themes, you are robbing developers. Yes. Remember that they not only write code, but provide technical support, write documentation, create and maintain the site of this product, and do many more things we do not suspect.
Mindlessly using paid templates for free can prevent programmers from making new developments that may be useful to a lot of other people besides you.
And what if you just want to check before buying how much the paid WordPress template suits you? First, paid themes often have free counterparts with more limited functionality. Most likely, you will see what interests you.
Secondly, due to the fact that the competition in this market is huge, sellers of themes offer a money-back guarantee. And if they do not offer it, then immediately there are doubts about the quality of the proposed theme.
There are lots of free plugins and themes on WordPress.org. Some are even cooler than many premium offers. Most importantly, you can legally use them without stressing your conscience and without negatively affecting the WordPress community. There are lots of sites created on WordPress that don’t use nulled themes and plugins. These sites don’t face any risks and work in the proper way.