ASTK15360U  COURSE: Policing Cyberspace: The Politics of Cyber Security

Volume 2015/2016

Elective in the Specialisation "International Relations, Diplomacy and Conflict Studies"

Bachelor level 10 ECTS

Master level 7.5 ECTS


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. 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 policing 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 by, first, looking at the political nature of cyberspace. Second, it relates cyber security to the concept of policing and to contemporary debates in security studies. Third, it turns to a selection of different issues related to cyber security, such as surveillance, big data, public-private partnerships, encryption, hacking and hacktivism, and whistleblowing.    

Lastly, the course turns to the democratic and normative implications of cyber security in terms of transparency, accountability and civil rights.


The Politics of Cyberspace: Code and Information as Data

  1. Introduction
  2. OMG, it’s cyber! (But what do we mean by “cyber”?)

The challenge of defining cyber security

  1. Cyber security I
  2. Cyber security II
  3. Policing cyberspace


  1. Big data and intelligence
  2. Public-private partnerships
  3. Encryption

Fifty Shades of Grey: From Lulz to Cyber Terrorism

  1. Hacking
  2. Hacktivism: digital activism or vandalism?
  3. Whistleblowing: Snowden and WikiLeaks

Digital Democracy

  1. Cyberspace and digital democracy
  2. Digital rights

Seminar with practitioners on the different understandings of threats and responsibility in cyberspace (organised with Nordic Centre for Security Technologies and Societal Values)

Learning Outcome


The objective of this course is to enable students to:

  • Describe the challenges of policing cyberspace
  • 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


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.

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

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 (2008). Cyber-Security and Threat Politics: US Efforts to Secure the Information Age. London: Routledge, pp. 1-23

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.

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.

Garland, David (1996). ‘The Limits of the Sovereign State: Strategies of Crime Control in Contemporary Society’. The British Journal of Criminology, 36(4): 445-471.

Giacomello, Giampiero (ed.) (2014). Security in Cyberspace: Targeting Nations, Infrastructures and Individuals. London: Bloomsbury.

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

Greenberg, Andy (2012). This Machine Kills Secrets: How WikiLeakers, Cypherpunks and Hacktivists Aim to Free the World’s Information. London: Virgin.

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.

Jasanoff, Sheila (2004). States of Knowledge: The Co-Production of Social Order. London: Routledge, pp. 1-45.

Kelty, Christopher M. (2008). Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. London: Duke University Press.

Knemeyer, Franz-Ludwig (1980). ‘Polizei’. Economy and Society, 9(2): 172-190.

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

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

Libicki, Martin C. (2009). Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwar. Santa Monica: RAND.

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.

Nissenbaum, Helen (2010). Privacy in Context: Technology, Policy and the Integrity of Social Life. Stanford: Stanford Law Books.

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.

Schouten, Peer(2014). ‘Security as Controversy: Reassembling Security at Amsterdam Airport’. Security Dialogue, 45(1): 23-42.

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

Zedner, Lucia (2006). ‘Policing Before and After the Police: The Historical Antecedents of Contemporary Crime Control’. Theoretical Criminology, 11(2): 261-281.

Students are expected to have some knowledge about contemporary security theory. Knowledge about information and communication technology is an advantage but not a prerequisite. Interest is paramount.
This course will consist of a combination of lectures, student discussions and, possibly, talks and workshops by guest lecturers.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written exam
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment

Criteria for achieving the goals:

  • 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
  • 28
  • Preparation
  • 168
  • Exam
  • 79
  • Total
  • 275