WordPress (WP) is the undisputed king of the CMS realm. It has earned this coveted position thanks to its utmost versatility and a myriad of available plugins and themes. Some of them come for free, while others require you to pay a few dollars. Then, there is also one menace lurking in the shadows, seemingly posing as an alternative.
We are talking about nulled plugins and themes, the pirated versions of premium WP products. They are being distributed and employed across the internet, unethically of course. At the first glance, the risks of using them seem low. However, when you scratch beneath the surface, the situation looks much different. Here is why they are a far cry from verified and legitimate tools out there.
A tainting presence
Advocates of nulled products argue that since they are licensed under GPL, it is completely fine to use, copy, and distribute them. This notion is only half-true and misleading all the way. The first negative consequence of such practice is that it undermines WP companies that earn money fair and square. It discourages innovation and growth of the WP ecosystem as a whole, making the situation gradually worse for all users.
Furthermore, we must realize that although most plugins and themes are open-source pieces of software, many of them also involve mixed licenses and are protected by copyright laws. So, those who use nulled products are often doing so without permission. This is skating on thin legal ice: it can lead to criminal or civil proceedings for data loss, data theft, and distribution of illegal material.
Security and privacy issues
Even if you don’t care about morals and have little fear of the legal hassle, there are other reasons to forgo nulled tools. Beyond everything else, they hamper the integrity and security of your website.
They are notorious as carriers of malware, viruses, and spyware. These malicious pieces of code and script are injected into nulled software in a way designed to avoiding detection. So, on the surface level, everything seems fine. Alas, these digital impostors create security loopholes and leave you more exposed to hacker attacks.
The consequences can be dire, ranging from loss of sensitive data (username, password, email address, etc.) to time-consuming cleaning of the infestation. The worst case scenario is data ending up in the hands of various cyber wrongdoers, including those that frequent dark web. There is no telling what they could do with it, but in case of personal customer and payment data, you might be looking at a tarnished reputation and consumer trust.
Another risk associated with nulled tools is their ability to add spam links, banners, and pop-ups to your website. Again, this problem often flies under the radar, as malicious links seamlessly embed themselves into code. On the other hand, sophisticated search engine algorithms have no tubule weeding out such pests and pinpointing information highjack. Upon finding them, they penalize your website by lowering the ranking or de-index it altogether.
It is really hard to say which is worse. But when you do some research on the work of professional digital agencies you can see that mending such issues takes meticulous work and a strategic approach. Sometimes, it takes several months to return to the place of former glory and it is not uncommon to see brands abandoning their domains completely. Therefore, you cannot afford to come across as a spammy and shady website. Making it to the forefront of the SERPs is linked to opulent benefits you would be wise to reap.
No access to updates
Furthermore, by resorting to nulled themes and plugins, you basically waive your right to receive updates.
There are no bug fixes, tweaks, new features, and security patches. What you end up with is an outdated version, which may bug and cause performance (freezes, slowdowns, crashes) and accessibility issues. These problems tend to increase your bounce rates and ultimately, you inhibit your efforts to constantly improve the website and earn revenue.
Likewise, bear in mind that WP launches updates of the core platform every now and then. It is always preferable to run the latest version and integrate only the plugins and themes that are compatible with it. Not surprisingly, nulled tools are at odds with the core code, which gives rise to further malfunctions or even website breaking down. These shocks could lay waste to any online marketplace.
Do not shoot yourself in the foot
There is one final sacrifice that you make— support, documentation, and all the privileges reserved for paid customers. Without a valid license, there is nobody to answer your queries and honor your demands. Handy resources such as video tutorials and blog posts are nowhere to be found. You are on your own, for better or worse.
All in all, that puts you in a precarious position: instead of extra benefits and functions, your attempt to game the system backfires. Therefore, if you are serious about building a rock-solid website, you might want to avoid plugins and themes from non-verified sources. Besides, there is no shortage of free alternatives. In fact, they are measured in thousands— some of them are almost as good as paid counterparts.
Like it or not, this point only cements the key takeaway: nulled tools do more harm than good more often than not.
Silent but deadly
Nulled plugins and themes are a risky business. You may get away with using them, but it is hard to justify such decision from any standpoint, even the financial one. The malicious code you invite operates in a clandestine fashion, without you even noticing something is amiss. Nevertheless, it impedes your security, data integrity, and privacy.
To make it worse, without a valid license, you are stuck with an outdated product and forsake a bunch of essentials services and resources. You are also faced with potential legal ramifications and SEO headaches. Finally, you carry the burden of conscious for affecting the WP community negatively.
So, do not throw caution to the wind. Embrace zero tolerance policy to nulled tools. Put together a bug-free, lightning-fast, and secure website.