While many WordPress plugins have free versions, you can also find pirated copies of the pro or premium versions online. These pirated copies use a “nulled” license key to get you access to the plugin.

It’s against most plugins’ terms of service, is illegal, and could put your site’s security at risk. Here’s why you shouldn’t use a nulled version of any WordPress plugin.

What’s a Nulled WordPress Plugin?

A nulled plugin is a copy of a premium WordPress plugin that’s distributed illegally online. People who do this argue it’s OK to do so because WordPress and its derivative works (like plugins) are licensed under a General Public License (GPL). According to them, that makes it OK to copy and distribute plugins how they like.

While that’s technically true, pirating premium plugins comes with a cost. Legitimate WordPress plugin developers lose money and, more importantly, it compromises the security and integrity of WordPress websites using these nulled plugins. When you hear of a WordPress site being hacked, it’s often because they’re using a nulled plugin.

How Nulled Plugins Kill Your WordPress Sites

Here are some ways a nulled plugin can kill your site and why you should avoid them.

1. They Compromise Your Site Security

Nulled WordPress plugins are dangerous from a security perspective because they often contain malware. This malicious code embeds itself into the very code of your website and can disguise itself, making it hard to detect and fix if your site is hacked. Hackers can steal and corrupt your data, causing it to go offline until you fix it.

2. They Affect Your SEO

If the nulled plugin contains malware, Google flag your site as one that’s distributing malicious code and get you de-indexed. They can also add spam links to your site or even hijack your visitors and redirect them to other criminal websites.

Search engines will index your site less frequently, if at all, and your content will slowly slip down the search engine rankings. It’s hard to notice if this has happened to your WordPress site, but search engine algorithms will notice it immediately and penalize your site. It may take months or even years for you to recover from this kind of penalty.

3. They Affect Your Site’s Privacy

Some nulled plugins have malware that copies your site data and sends it to hackers who then sell it online. Data such as usernames, passwords, and email addresses are often sold online to criminals who take over websites for criminal activity. These kinds of attacks are hard to detect and may go unnoticed since they’re designed to keep your WordPress site functioning normally.

4. They Put You at Risk for Lawsuits

While WordPress is distributed under a GPL license, some parts of a plugin’s code may be sold under a mixed license. That means that some parts of its code are protected by copyright laws, making your use of a nulled version illegal and against copyright.

Owners of the WordPress plugins have the right to sue you for damages because you’re using their intellectual property without permission. Users could also sue you if the nulled plugin allowed their data to be stolen from your site. Defending yourself from these kinds of lawsuits can get expensive.

5. They Prevent You From Staying Updated

Technology changes and evolves, and as a WordPress site owner, you want to be using the latest versions of all the plugins you have installed. Nulled plugins aren’t updated, however, because they don’t use valid license keys.

You’ll be left with an outdated plugin version and you can’t take advantage of any enhancements or new features added to it. Additionally, your WordPress site may become unstable since the underlying platform is updated frequently and won’t work with older plugin versions.

Aside from all those reasons, using a nulled WordPress plugin is not fair to the developers who created them. They spent a lot of time and effort to offer WordPress users extended functionality for their sites. Using a nulled version of a premium plugin just isn’t fair to them. You’re also taking money right out of their pockets, hurting their business. They may stop developing plugins completely because it’s not worth their time any more.

There really is no reason to use a nulled WordPress plugin on your website. Especially since many premium ones have free versions you can use to help you get started. Instead of using a nulled one, why not support the small business owners who created an innovative WordPress product that’s benefiting over one-third of the Internet?