We have all done it. Stayed up for hours searching for the perfect theme. And there are many sites where you can browse and browse. I am not saying not to use a free theme. There are currently 2,043 perfectly good free themes in the WordPress.org theme repository. But these themes are not arranged as nicely as some of the free theme sites so it is tempting to go to there. I am not talking about reputable sites such as Smashing Magazine who may do some theme review blog posts from time to time. You can tell when the site is pushing free themes. What is wrong with that? Let me explain.
Often these sites offer the same themes as are on the repository and you can down load them right from there. The problem is that many times they are bootlegged copy of a trusted original. In addition to being a smarmy thing to do, these bootlegged copies tend to be older versions of the themes so may have security issues that were subsequently fixed, or will not be able to use many of the newer WordPress features.
But even worse than that is the fact that many of these themes include Base64 code which is an encryption method often used to hide malicious code in places like the footer. You won’t be able to see them but this code may include links to spam sites – or worse.
If you are the type person that needs proof, or even if you aren’t Siobhan McKeown of WPMU just did a bit of research and wrote up the results on what you find when searching for free themes. You have to see it to believe it. Across the board – horrible.
If you are wondering whether your theme has any of this malicious code or weird links to personal ads or gambling sites, you can download the plugin Theme Authenticity Checker Plugin ( TAC for short). Once you upload and activate TAC, you can find it under Appearances tab and run it from there. An easy process for some free peace of mind[Tweet “Just say no to searching for free WordPress themes anywhere other than the WordPress.org repository. Why?”]