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Apple's legal fight against Pegasus spyware maker won't move to Israel

NSO Group

Last updated

Pegasus spyware developer NSO Group's bid to move Apple's lawsuit against it to Israel has been denied, with the ruling judge saying the spyware firm's arguments don't overrule the challenges that Apple would face should it move.

Apple filed a suit against the NSO Group in November 2021, alleging that its Pegasus spyware tools were being used for surveillance of some Apple users. The allegation followed earlier reports that Pegasus was being used against activists and journalists.

Since then, the NSO Group has claimed that such a suit must be held in its home country of Israel because of where witnesses and evidence will be situated.

"These factors are a wash," wrote US District Judge James Donato in a ruling. "NSO's ostensible burdens with respect to witnesses and evidence in this District are neatly balanced by equivalent burdens Apple would face if this case were litigated in Israel."

"Witnesses and evidence are likely to be located in here and abroad in fairly equal measure, and one side or the other will face some challenges," continued Judge Donato. "NSO also overlooks the fact that the challenges will be amenable to a number of mitigating practices... [eg] current discovery practices such as the production of documents in electronic form and the use of remote video depositions and similar techniques will contribute substantially to reducing burdens on each side."

An Apple spokesperson told AppleInsider that Judge Donato also decided against the NSO Group a key issue regarding whether the lawsuit can continue at all. According to the spokesperson, Judge Donato said that Apple had successfully made its argument that the NSO profited from violating both the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and California's Unfair Competition Law.

The spokesperson also said that this lawsuit is part of its overall campaign to prevent spyware. Alongside the legal case, Apple has made a $10 million grant to organizations conducting research over the topic.

It also issues threat notifications to users who have been targeted by spyware.

With regard to the NSO lawsuit, Judge Donato concluded that the spyware firm's "motion to dismiss is denied in all respects."

"As next steps, NSO will answer Apple's complaint by February 14, 2024," she continued. "A case management conference is set for April 4, 2024, at 10:00 a.m."