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Unrestricted Warfare: Offensive Intelligence and Cyberwarfare in the 21st Century


Admission requirements

This course is designed for the minor Intelligence Studies. It is not possible to follow single courses of this minor. You need to be enrolled in Usis for the minor to be accepted to this course. There are 180 places open for registration, on a first come first serve basis, where LDE students are given priority.

This course is also open for inbound exchange students if they wish to take the entire minor Intelligence Studies; it is not possible to take single courses from this minor. Exchange students must be admitted by the FGGA International Office prior to the start of the minor; priority will be given to direct exchange partners of FGGA. For more information about the application procedure for exchange students, please contact the FGGA International Office at international@fgga.leidenuniv.nl.


Since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York, intelligence agencies are increasingly tasked not only with the collection and analysis of intelligence, but with offensive operations aimed at disrupting or eliminating adversaries. Covert action, enhanced interrogation and targeted killing have all made headlines and led to major public controversies involving intelligence agencies. More recently, with the creation of web 2.0 and developments such as the Internet of Things, cyberspace has emerged as a new domain of “unrestricted warfare”, provoking numerous countries to develop a National Cyber Security Strategy. In many countries, Cyber security has become one of the top priorities alongside international terrorism. The threats emerging from cyberspace are becoming more internationally recognized. Countries are trying to keep up with their legislation and framework to put measures in place to protect their own infrastructure and population from these threats.

This course will explore the ways in which intelligence agencies engage in offensive operations to disrupt, sabotage or eliminate their adversaries. The majority of the course will focus upon the emergence of cyberspace as a new sphere of intelligence activity, but we will also explore the history and present state of such other non-virtual means of “unrestricted warfare” carried out by intelligence agencies such as paramilitary operations, propaganda, political action and targeted killing. By the end of this course you should have developed a good understanding of how intelligence agencies have not only sought to understand the world, but how they have changed it. You will also gain knowledge on the impact of the internet upon those offensive operations, and the work of intelligence agencies more generally.

Course objectives

  1. The student gains knowledge on historical and recent developments in the field of Digital Cryptography, different Cyber-disciplines and Social Media in regard to intelligence gathering;
  2. The student gains knowledge of current scientific theories and development in the above-mentioned disciplines;
  3. The student will gain knowledge of the history and present state of non-virtual offensive intelligence operations. This includes the history of covert action, political action, propaganda and targeted killing.
  4. The student develops writing skills and skills in regard to the academic use of sources and online open source (OSINT) information;
  5. The student develops research skills in the development in the above-mentioned disciplines;
  6. The student is able to work together in a group with other students;
  7. The student develops creative capacities (writing, inventions, design etc.).


Timetable 2019 to be announced.

The timetable will be displayed with a link on this course page, the website, blackboard and on the front page of this minor programma.

Mode of instruction

7 lectures of 3 hours by instructors and guest lecturers.

Participation in lectures, discussions and exercises is required in order to obtain a grade. One lecture may be missed. Being absent more than once will lead to expulsion from the course.

Course Load

Component % Hours
Attendance mandatory 21
Mid term paper 50% 20
Final exam 50% 3
Reading and self-study* 96
Total 100% 140

*On the basis of reading approximately eight pages per hour.

Assessment method

Mid term paper (50%)
Final exam (50%)

The Course and Examination Regulation Security Studies and the Rules and Regulation of the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Security and Global Affairs apply.

Please be aware that the resit of the exam will take place in January



Reading list

TBA on Blackboard


Registration in uSis is possible from four weeks before the start of the course.
Also register for every course in Blackboard. Important information about the course is posted here.


Email: intelligencestudies@fgga.leidinuniv.nl


This course can only be taken as part of the minor Intelligence Studies.