COURSE: The Politics of Cyber Security

Course content

We live in a time in which information and communication technologies increasingly permeate our lives, translating information into data that is, in principle, only a few clicks away. The world is embedded with so many digital devices that the space between them consists not of dark circuitry but rather the space of the world itself and the people who inhabit it. Consequently, cyber security has become a prominent topic in contemporary security politics.

Cyber security is, however, not monolithic. Rather, cyber security is a broad concept that cuts across a wide range of complex and constantly changing threats and vulnerabilities. Moreover, the definition and handling of cyber threats and vulnerabilities involve a plethora of different actors – both public and private – that have often divergent understandings of cyber security. In short, cyber security is a fundamentally political and contested issue.

This course explores the politics of cyber security and its inherent governance challenges by, first, looking at the political nature of cyberspace and by relating cyber security to contemporary debates in security studies. Second, it turns to a selection of different political and democratic issues related to cyber security, such as national security, policing, public-private partnerships, surveillance, big data, and privacy.

An important element of the course is interaction with practitioners from outside academia who are working with the themes and issues mentioned above. The practitioners cover a broad range of public and private cyber security related work.     


Preliminary teaching plan

Introduction and Theorising Cyber Security

  1. OMG, It’s Cyber! (But What Do We Mean by ‘Cyber’?)

  2. Cyber Security in Security Studies


    Cyber Security and National Security

  3. Talk by the Danish Centre for Cyber Security

  4. Cyber Security and National Security


    Policing Cyberspace

  5. Talk by NC3, the Danish National Cyber Crime Centre (or EC3)

  6. Policing Cyberspace


    Cyber Security and Public-Private-Partnerships

  7. Talk by CISO or other representative from major Danish company

  8. Cyber Security and Public-Private Partnerships


    Surveillance, Privacy and Digital Democracy

  9. Talk by think tank/NGO

  10. Surveillance, Privacy and Digital Democracy


  11. Debate with Danish politicians

  12. Wrap up

Exam paper workshop


SRM: Elective course III

The course is open to all students in the Department

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS

Learning outcome

The objective of this seminar is to enable students to:

  • Describe the political challenges of cyber security

  • Present the key challenges of defining cyber security

  • Apply theoretical insights to the analysis of empirical cases of cyber security

  • Critically analyse and compare different understandings of cyber security

Critically reflect on the political and democratic implications of different practices and understandings of cyber security

This course will consist of a combination of lectures, student discussions, case study exercises and talks by guest lecturers.


Albrechtslund, Anders (2013). ‘New Media and Changing Perceptions of Surveillance’. In: John Hartley, Jean Burgess & Axel Bruns (eds.), A Companion to New Media Dynamics. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 311-321.

Amoore, Louise (2011). ‘Data Derivatives: On the Emergence of a Security Risk Calculus for Our Times’. Theory, Culture & Society, 28(6): 24-43.

Andrejevic, Mark (2014). ‘WikiLeaks, Surveillance, and Transparency’. International Journal of Communication, 8: 2619-2630. 

Barlow, John Perry (1996). A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

Barocas, Solon & Nissenbaum, Helen (2014). ‘Big Data’s End Run around Anonymity and Consent’. In: Julia Lane, Victoria Stodden, Stefan Bender & Helen Nissenbaum (eds.), Privacy, Big Data, and the Public Good. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 44-75.

Betz, David J. & Stevens, Tim (2013). ‘Analogical Reasoning and Cyber Security’. Security Dialogue, 44(2): 147-164.

Birchall, Clare (2011). ‘Transparency, Interrupted: Secrets of the Left’. Theory, Culture & Society, 28(7-8): 60-84.

Cavelty, Myriam Dunn (2007). 'Cyber-Terror - Looming Threat or Phantom Menace? The Framing of the US Cyber-Threat Debate'. Journal of Technology & Politics, 4(1): 19-36.Cavelty, Myriam Dunn (2013). ‘From Cyber-Bombs to Political Fallout: Threat Representations with an Impact in the Cyber-Security Discourse’. International Studies Review, 15(1): 105-122.

Cavelty, Myriam Dunn & Mauer, Victor (2008). ‘The Role of the State in Securing the Information Age – Challenges and Prospects’. In: Myriam Dunn Cavely, Victor Mauer, Sai Felicia Krishna-Hensel (eds.), Power and Security in the Information Age. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 151-162.

Cohen, Julie E. (2013). ‘What Privacy Is for’ Harvard Law Review, 126: 1904-1933.

Coleman, Gabriella (2013). Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Coleman, Gabriella (2014). Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Verso: London.

Deibert, Ronald J. (2013). Black Code: Surveillance, Privacy and the Dark Side of the Internet. Toronto: Signal.

Deibert, Ronald J.  & Rohozinski, Rafal (2008). ‘Good for Liberty, Bad for Security? Global Civil Society and the Securitization of the Internet’. In: Ronald J. Deibert, John G. Palfrey & Rafal Rohozinski (eds.), Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 123-149.

Deibert, Ronald J. & Rohozinski, Rafal (2010). ‘Risking Security: Policies and Paradoxes of Cyberspace Security’. International Political Sociology, 4(1): 15-32.

Farwell, James P. & Rohozinski (2011). ‘Stuxnet and the Future of Cyber War’. Survival: Global Politics and Strategy, 53(1): 23-40.

Gitelman, Lisa (2013). Raw Data Is An Oxymoron. Boston: MIT Press, pp. 1-14.

Haggerty, Kevin D. & Ericson, Richard V. (2000). 'The Surveillant Assemblage'. British Journal of Sociology, 51(4): 605-622.

Hansen, Lene & Nissenbaum, Helen (2009). ‘Digital Disaster, Cyber Security, and the Copenhagen School’. International Studies Quarterly, 53(4): 1155-1175.

Hwang, Tim & Levy, Karen (2015, 20 January). ‘‘The Cloud’ and Other Dangerous Metaphors’. The Atlantic.

Lennard, Natasha (2013). ‘When the Government Approves of Hacking’. Salon.

Lessig, Lawrence (2006) Code: Version 2.0. New York: Basic Books.

Lievrouw, Leah A. (2014). ‘WikiLeaks and the Shifting Terrain of Knowledge Authority’. International Journal of Communication, 8: 2631-2645.

Lupton, Deborah (2012). ‘M-Health and Health Promotion: The Digital Cyborg and Surveillance Society’. Social Theory & Health, 10(3): 229-244.

Lyon, David (2014). ‘Surveillance, Snowden, and Big Data: Capacities, Consequences, Critique’. Big Data & Society, 1(2): 1-13.

MacKinnon, Rebecca (2012). Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom. New York: Basic Books.

Marquis-Boire, Morgan (2014). ‘You Can Get Hacked Just by Watching This Cat Video on YouTube’. The Intercept.

Meyer, David (2015, 7 February). ‘“Cyberspace” Must Die. Here’s Why’. Gigaom.

Naughton, John (2010, 20 June). ‘The Internet: Everything You Need to Know’. The Observer.

Palmås, Karl (2011). ’Predicting What You’ll Do Tomorrow: Panspectric Surveillance and the Contemporary Corporation’. Surveillance and Society, 8(3): 338-354.

Pariser, Eli (2011). Beware Online “Filter Bubbles”, TED Talk.

Perloth, Nicole (2014, 18 April). ‘Heartbleed Highlights a Contradiction in the Web’. The New York Times.

Rid, Thomas (2013). Cyber War Will Not Take Place. London: Hurst & Company.

Sauter, Molly (2014). The Coming Swarm: DDoS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet. London: Bloomsbury.

Winner, Langdon (1980). ‘Do Artifacts Have Politics?’. Daedalus, 109(1): 121-136.


Students are expected to have some knowledge about contemporary security theory. Knowledge about information and communication technology is an advantage but not a prerequisite.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28