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 a monolithic issue. 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.  


Bachelor student: 10 ECTS

Master student: 7.5 ECTS


SRM students have priority

Learning outcome


Students will be introduced to a broad range of political and democratic challenges of cyber security. The will acquire knowledge on the present key problems of defining cyber security and applying theoretical insights to the analysis of empirical cases of cyber security



Students will enhance their ability to analyze cybersecurity issues and controversies in a reflective and productive manner as well as the theories used for this purpose. They will also be able to critically reflect on the political and democratic implications of different practices and understandings of cyber security



The students will gain an ability to engage competently in both academic and practitioner debates on cybersecurity, including understanding both the political, technological and socio-scientific contexts of cybersecurity development and the nature of the field of cybersecurity scholarship.

The course will consist of a combination of lectures, student discussions, case study exercises and talks by guest lecturers. Much emphasis will be placed on discussions/exercises combining the literature and the practitioner-based guest lecturers, so the course really presupposes preparations, i.e. active reading of the texts.

Tentative reading list:


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

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

Barocas, Solon & Nissenbaum, Helen (2014). ‘Big Data’s End Runaround 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 (2013). ‘From Cyber-Bombs to Political Fallout: Threat Representations with an Impact in the Cyber-Security Discourse’. International Studies Review, 15(1): 105-122.

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 (2010). ‘Risking Security: Policies and Paradoxes of Cyberspace Security’. International Political Sociology, 4(1): 15-32.

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.

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.

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

Sauter, Molly (2014). The Coming Swarm: DDoS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Oral exam with a synopsis
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No 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