Apple wins early battle against NSO after suing spyware mercenaries for attacking iPhone users

Apple has won an early battle against the NSO Group in court today. Apple sued the Pegasus spyware maker in November 2021, but the Israel-based firm has been trying to export Apple’s lawsuit to its home turf.

Apple’s early victory comes in the form of Judge Donato denying NSO Group’s request to dismiss the lawsuit from Apple altogether.


In short, Judge Donato ruled that NSO Group’s request for dismissal in the US in favor of a trial in Israel didn’t meet the bar. Instead, Judge Donato suggested that Apple would face the same challenges in Israel that NSO faces in the US. Here’s a snippet from the decision:

These factors are a wash. 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. NSO has not demonstrated otherwise. NSO also overlooks the fact that the challenges will be amenable to a number of mitigating practices.

A wash, indeed. Separately, NSO argued that the grounds on which Apple sued the Pegasus maker were not applicable to the case. Judge Donato disagreed. In the decision, Judge Donato validated Apple’s basis for the lawsuit that claims NSO Group violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and California’s Unfair Competition Law.

Back to Judge Donato:

NSO’s motion to dismiss is denied in all respects. As next steps, NSO will answer Apple’s
complaint by February 14, 2024. A case management conference is set for April 4, 2024, at 10:00

What does this mean for Apple? It’s a win in the early phase of the litigation process that validates Apple’s basis for suing NSO Group. Also, Judge Donato did not seem too impressed with NSO Group’s effort to have the case dismissed based on the writing in his decision to allow the case to proceed in the US.

An Apple spokesperson tells 9to5Mac that the company will continue to protect users against 21st century mercenaries like the NSO Group. Litigation against the Pegasus spyware maker is part of a larger effort to protect users, Apple says. This effort includes Lockdown Mode on iPhone, Apple notifying users who may be targeted by state-grade attackers, and the $10 million grant through the Ford Foundation for supporting mercenary spyware threat research.


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