March 19, 2018 by Paul G. | Blog, Features, Updates

Keyless Activation – Doing Away With License Key Management

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Managing WordPress sites is a lot of work, on a good day.

With so many moving parts, staying on top of it all can be, frankly, a little overwhelming.

To complicate matters, if you purchase Pro plugins, you’ve the added complication of storing all those license keys.

Not any more, with ShieldPRO.

“I’m Gonna Party Manage License Keys Like It’s 1999″

It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Prince’s version, but it’s the reality of software licensing in 2018.

The legacy of license keys haunts us from the days of installing Window 95.

The problems with license keys are:

  • license keys are still being issued!
  • license keys must still be entered to activate pro/premium licenses
  • license keys represent the primary method to verify that a purchase has been made and is still valid

Why must we keep using license keys?

The answer is a simple one: it works and it’s technically easy to verify license keys.

Unfortunately it’s a huge pain for everyone. Everyone, that is, except for the software distributor.

Software distributors are never likely to fix this because it requires an investment to build a solution. And since no-one else has bothered to do it, why would they?

Luckily for you, innovation is our bread and butter 🙂

So what’s the alternative if we don’t have keys?

Easy – no license keys. i.e. we present: Keyless Activation.

Exclusive to ShieldPRO: Keyless License Activation

As we said, the only way to get an alternative to license key based activation is to build it.

With the next release of Shield Security Pro, you’ll no longer need your license keys. Sure, they’re still there in the background, but you wont need to use them anywhere or think about them.

So how do you activate your licenses?

Instead of building up a collection of License Keys, you simply assign your available licenses to site URLs. That’s basically what’s happening behind the scenes anyway, but we’ve removed the responsibility on your part to assign keys to sites.

Here’s how it used to work:

  1. Buy a Pro license
  2. Receive an email with your new license key
  3. Load up the license key page on the site you want to activate Pro
  4. Enter the new license key and allow the system to verify it
  5. Pro features are activated.

Here’s how it works now:

  1. Buy a Pro license.
  2. Add the URL of the site you want to license from inside your ShieldPRO account.
  3. Pro features are automatically licensed on the site within 30 seconds.

Could it be any easier? We’re not sure it could be…

What are the benefits to you?

  • You don’t have license keys to remember, manage, and store.
  • You can see at a glance all sites that have licenses, regardless of the keys/separate purchases.
    This means if you have 2 or more separate purchases, they’re all brought together into 1 place.
  • You can add/remove licenses to/from sites with ease.
  • You can easily see which sites have licenses that are due to expire soon, and renew them as necessary.

But, I still want my license keys!

Sometimes it’s hard to let thing go. This is a new paradigm, and so you’ll have to do things differently.

But the things you do differently will be simpler, and there’s less to do.

When you view your sites in the ShieldPRO control panel you’ll see the license keys listed alongside the site URLs. They’re there just for your record, but for nothing else.

Is this secure? Can’t someone, somehow, steal my licenses?

Since keys are no longer required, no-one can steal anything from you.

To authorise or de-authorise a license on a site, you must have access to your ShieldPRO account.  There’s no way around this.

How does it all work behind the scenes?

I’m not going to lie… this took quite a bit of involved development to get all the right pieces lined up and working together.

Here are the basic principals of how it works.

  1. You add a URL to your ShieldPRO account for a given Pro plugin.
  2. The site in-question will send a “license check” request to ShieldPRO asking whether, for the given product, there is a pro license assigned to it.
  3. ShieldPRO will lookup this site against the database of licenses and it’ll return a response of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on whether or not it’s found.
  4. Any request for a site lookup will involve a simple handshake between ShieldPRO and the site itself. This ensures that the requests are coming from the site-in-question, not from anywhere else.
    e.g. To authorise, there will need to be a WordPress site with a Shield Security plugin ready and waiting to respond to us at

Why does no-one offer Keyless Activation?

It’s non-trivial to develop this kind of solution, and so it’s easier to just use license keys and do what the rest of the world does. It works, afterall, so why change it?

We, personally, hate license keys and their management. So, this was always on our roadmap, along with a few other enhancements, but we have to do it in stages.

Does this affect Shield Central Pro licenses?

It doesn’t. In-fact, implementing Keyless Activation allowed us to significantly reduce complexity for Shield Central licenses.

How can I get Keyless Activation?

Keyless Activation comes into effect with release of Shield Security v6.6.

There is nothing more you need to do. All your existing licenses will remain active and going forward, if you need to add more licenses, you’ll be able to do this directly with the new Keyless Activation control panel.

ShieldPRO Testimonials
@paulbakker's Gravatar @paulbakker


My favourite gatekeeper !

@danieliss7's Gravatar @danieliss7

Great support!

I used services like Sucuri, WebTotem and WebArx but Shield provided me with the best experience. I am very happy for the great and helpful support. Support is the most important thing for our company. If there is a problem or a malfunction of the site, then the most important…

@pankajsanam's Gravatar @pankajsanam

Looks good

Nice plugin, a must have!

@mrsjessicasimpson's Gravatar @mrsjessicasimpson

Being buried alive with constant hacker requests, to not being buried alive.

OK, from seeing at least 50 plus lockouts a day to none in 6 hours: is pretty damned good, and it’s all due to this Plugin. To originally combat the Hacker Bots that I was seeing in the “Limit Login Attempts Reloaded” logs, I ran a hapless plugin that changed…

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Comments (5)

    I followed the directions for Keyless Activation. Since I already have a site License with Shield I removed my domain name and then added it back in and did the license verification and that was OK. I went through the set-up Wizard, but nowhere does it say I have the Pro version. The version shown is 8.4.4 Is this the Pro version?

      Hi Samantha,

      Sorry for any confusion and thank you also for your support through your Pro purchase!

      Your question has made us realise that we don’t make it entirely obvious on the Shield UI that Pro is active. You’ll know that you have Pro, for now, by loading up the main Shield Dashboard and clicking on the ‘Pro’ link from the top menu. This will then show you the license details if Pro is active. If a license wasn’t found, try clicking ‘Check License’ once more and if you have trouble, drop us a line to our support team.

      Thanks again for your support!

    Being that our infrastructure is a very secure enviroment no where do you tell me what URL/IP/endpoint I need to whitelist in order for our Blog server to reach your onedollar licenses systems? So now I can’t verify my licenses because I am not whitelisting the outbound traffic to an untrusted source? Help?


      Sorry about the trouble with this. To-date we’ve never been asked for this, and now that we have, we’ve provided some documentation around that.

      To see what outbound connections ShieldPRO makes, please review this article:

      Let us know in our support channels if you have any questions about that.

    Bridget Hornsby

    I purchased the Protect 1 site. Now I’d like to purchase the Protect 3, but I’d like my Protect 1 license to be included in that 3. Can I just pay the difference and get 3 sites, or do I have to purchase the Protect 3 in addition to the Protect 1 I already have?

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