Cybersecurity and International Politics

Course content

Cyberspace is profoundly shaped by the technical features of information technologies, what they constrain, and what they enable. At the same time, these technical features are deeply political and subject to intense contestation. This is also true for the security threats, vulnerabilities, and intrusions that occur in the cyber domain.


This course aims to provide a comprehensive knowledge in International Relations (IR) and cybersecurity, while combining it with a necessary technical understanding of the concrete workings of cyberspace and their security implications. This is complemented with a practical knowledge of cybersecurity issues throughout contemporary history.


The first half of the semester is devoted to general approaches to the international politics of cybersecurity. After beginning with technical and historical basics, it covers traditional approaches from strategic studies on cyberwarfare, as well insights into the social construction of security threats, critical and poststructuralists engagements, and international law.


In the second half of the semester, the course will delve into specific subjects including national cybersecurity policies, private actors, critical infrastructure, the security of everyday devices, Internet censorship, data privacy, hacktivism, cybercrime, blockchains, and quantum technologies.


MSc in Security Risk Management

MSc in Political Science: Limited intake

MSc in Social Science: Limited intake


SRM students has priority

Learning outcome


  • Attendees will emerge with a deep knowledge of IR theoretical advances and debates on cybersecurity from a wide range of approaches
  • They will be aware of the historical background of technologies, cyber incidents, and cybersecurity policies
  • They will acquire an adequate understanding of the technical aspects of information security in order to grasp their political and security implications



  • Attendees will be able to expose the interconnection between the technical and political aspects of cybersecurity
  • They will be trained to move beyond the hyperboles surrounding cybersecurity and appraise how concretely realistic different scenarios are from both technical and political perspectives



  • Attendees will be prepared to expand IR knowledge on cybersecurity from both problem-solving and critical angles
  • They will have developed expertise on cybersecurity to advise the policy world in a down-to-earth and pragmatic way


The first part of the class, lasting about 15 minutes, includes the following:

– Student presentations related to the week’s topic, and feedback
– Brief discussion of cybersecurity news (if relevant)

Presentations occur in sessions #5 to #26. The presentations last 5-10 min and allow a student or group of students to sketch their assignment paper, at its stage of progress at that time of the semester. The presentations are not graded. At the end, the presenter(s) ask their peers for up to three points of advice. This allows students to learn about each other’s topics and fosters collaboration across the class.

The second part, running for about 1h30 including a break, involves a mix of the following:

– Technical explanations necessary to situate and understand the topic
– Lecture on the IR concepts and debates involved
– Empirical illustrations, including by showing websites and interactive features

The second part includes a peer discussion for the most important reading of the session. The other readings are discussed through a dialogue between the teacher and the students. In some sessions, students are left the choice to pick one of several readings (eg. of chapters in a book, of reports from the same institution).

1. Introduction to the politics of technology

- Langdon Winner (1980), ‘Do artifacts have politics?’.

- Bruno Latour (1993), Aramis or the Love of Technology.

2. A brief history of the computer age

- Alan Turing (1950), ‘Computing machinery and intelligence’.

- Brad Myers (1998), ‘A brief history of human-computer interaction technology’.

- Lawrence Lessig (2008), Code 2.0.

- John Perry Barlow (1994), ‘A declaration of the independence of cyberspace’.

3. Introduction to information security

- Peter Singer & Allan Friedman (2014), Cybersecurity: What Everyone Needs to Know.

- Craigen, Diakun-Thibault & Purse (2014), ‘Defining Cybersecurity’.

4. Timeline of cyberattacks

- James Farwell & Rafal Rohozinski (2011), ‘Stuxnet and the future of cyber war’.

- Alison Lawlor Russell (2014), Cyber Blockades.

5. Cyberspace, states and power

- David Betz & Tim Stevens (2011), Cyberspace and the State.

- Joseph Nye (2011), The Future of Power.

6. The politics of cyberwarfare

- John Arquilla & David Ronfeldt (1993), ‘Cyberwar is coming!’

- Lucas Kello (2013), ‘The meanings of the cyber revolution’

7. Cyberweapons and mercenaries

- Tim Maurer (2019), Cyber Mercenaries.

- George Perkovitch & Ariel Levite (2017), Understanding Cyber Conflict: Fourteen Analogies.

8. Deterrence and the attribution problem

- Thomas Rid & Ben Buchanan (2015), ‘Attributing cyber attacks’

- Joseph Nye (2017), ‘Deterrence and dissuasion in cyberspace’

9. Escalation: will cyberwar take place?

- Brandon Valeriano & Ryan Maness  (2015), Cyber War Versus Cyber Realities.

- Erica Borghard & Shawn Lonergan (2019), ‘Cyber operations as imperfect tools for escalation’

10. Constructing and securitising cyber threats

- Johan Eriksson (2001), ‘Cyberplagues, IT and security’

- Lene Hansen & Helen Nissenbaum (2009), ‘Digital disaster, cyber security, and the Copenhagen School’

- Myriam Dunn Cavelty (2013), ‘From cyber bombs to political fallout’

11. Cultural representations of cybersecurity

- Stanley Kubrick (1964), Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb [film]

- Myriam Dunn Cavelty (2019), ‘The materiality of cyberthreats: securitization logics in popular visual culture’

- James Shires (2020), ‘Cyber-noir: Cybersecurity and popular culture’

12. Technological agency: new critical approaches from science studies

- Thierry Balzacq & Myriam Dunn Cavelty (2016), ‘A theory of actor-network for cyber security’

- Tobias Liebetrau & Kristoffer Kjærgaard (2021), ‘The ontological politics of cyber security’

13. Simulating and deconstructing cyberwar

- Tim Stevens (2016), Cyber Security and the Politics of Time.

- Fabio Cristianio (2018), ‘From simulations to simulacra of war: game scenarios in cyberwar exercises’

14. Cyberwar and international law

- Heather Dinnis (2012), Cyber Warfare and the Laws of War.

- CCDCOE Cyber Law Toolkit, one scenario

15. Cybersecurity policy in the US and the EU

- Myriam Dunn Cavelty (2007), Cyber-Security and Threat Politics: US Efforts to Secure the Information Age.

- Helena Carrapico & André Barrinha (2017), ‘The EU as a coherent (cyber)security actor?’

- Danish National Strategy for Cyber- and Information Security (2018); or the cybersecurity strategy of the student’s country

16. Cybersecurity policy in Russia and China

- Greg Austin (2014), Cyber Policy in China.

- Eva Claessen (2020), ‘Reshaping the Internet’

17. Internet governance and transnational bodies

- Laura DeNardis (2014), The Global War for Internet Governance.

- Milton Mueller (2017), ‘Is cyber security eating internet governance?’

18. Private technology actors

- Daniel McCarthy (2018), ‘Privatizing political authority’

- Kristoffer Kjærgaard & Karen Lund Petersen (2017), ’Public-private partnerships on cyber security’

- Clare Stevens (2020), ‘Assembling cybersecurity: the politics and materiality of technical malware reports and the case of Stuxnet’

19. Critical infrastructure protection

- Myriam Dunn Cavelty & Kristian Søby Christensen (eds. 2016), Securing ‘the Homeland’: Critical Infrastructure, Risk and (In)Security.

- Claudia Aradau (2010), ‘Security that matters: critical infrastructure and objects of protection’.

20. Everyday cybersecurity

- Julia Slupska (2019), ‘Safe at home: towards a feminist critique of cyber security’

- ENISA reports on various topics

21. Internet filtering and censorship

- Ronald Deibert (2003), ‘Black code: censorship, surveillance, and the militarisation of cyberspace’

- Deibert, Palfrey, Rohozinski & Zittrain (eds. 2008), Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering.

22. Information warfare and hybrid war

- Martin Libicki (1995), What is Information Warfare?

- Bettina Renz (2016), ‘Russia and “hybrid warfare”’

- Golovchenko, Hartmann & Adler-Nissen (2018), ‘State, media, and civil society in the information warfare over Ukraine’

23. Privacy and data breaches

- Daniel Solove (2005), ‘A taxonomy of privacy’

- Paul Ohm (2009), ‘Broken promises of privacy: responding to the surprising failure of anonymization’

24. Hackers and surveillance

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

- David Lyon (2014), ‘Surveillance, Snowden and Big Data’

- Leonie Tanczer (2016), ‘Hacktivism and the male-only stereotype’

25. Terrorism, dark web, and cybercrime

- Angus Bancroft (2020), The Darknet and Smarter Crime.

- Louise Amoore & Marieke de Goede (2005), ‘Governance, risk, and dataveillance in the War on Terror’

- Tasniem Anwar (2020), ‘Unfolding the Past, Proving the Present: Social Media Evidence in Terrorism Finance Court Cases’

26. Cryptocurrency and the blockchain

- Malcolm Campbell-Verduyn (2017), Bitcoin and Beyond: Cryptocurrencies, Blockchains and Global Governance.

- Primavera de Filippi & Benjamin Loveluck (2016), ‘The invisible politics of Bitcoin: governance crisis of a decentralised infrastructure’

27. Quantum technologies

- James Der Derian & Alexander Wendt (2020), ’Quantizing International Relations’

- Frank L. Smith (2020), ‘Quantum technology hype and national security’

Q5 symposium, one panel

28. Summary

It is recommended to have background knowledge in IR theory and security studies, including realist strategic studies, constructivism, securitisation theory, and poststructuralist IR. Students with a non-IR background are still welcome but are advised to pair up with other students for the free assignment. It is also recommended to have a working knowledge of at least some social science methodologies (quantitative, qualitative, or interpretive).

Preliminary technical knowledge of computer science is not required, beyond a normal use of everyday digital technologies.

Continuous feedback during the course
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)


Students receive feedback from both peers and teacher in the week where they present their free assignment project. They are welcome to ask the teacher oral or written questions throughout the semester, including about their assignment. Written feedback on the free assignment is given at the end of the semester.

Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Free Written Assignment
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
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • English
  • 56


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Study Board for Security Risk Management
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Vic Castro   (4-7d706a6847706d7a35727c356b72)
Saved on the 28-04-2022

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