Spartan9 Dispatch for April 2023

This month - The Taiwan Contingency Playbook and workshop, Vientiane writing retreat, gear updates, and links to our latest articles.


What we’ve been doing, where we’ve been travelling to, and what’s next.

Taiwan Contingency Playbook

Over the past few months, I’ve been diligently working on a Taiwan Contingency Playbook. This comprehensive resource offers organisations a solid framework for preparing for and responding to a potential armed conflict involving Taiwan.

This playbook stands as the most detailed plan available for organisations to address a military conflict scenario impacting Taiwan.

The scope of the playbook extends beyond expats and their families to include local employees as well. It features comprehensive plans for shelter-in-place scenarios (the most likely situation) and domestic relocation scenarios.

The Taiwan Contingency Playbook builds on the work I’ve done with several global organisations that have a presence in Taiwan. It incorporates my on-the-ground research from last month when I drove the major cross-country routes and explored the length of the east coast.

Whether you’ve already done some planning or are just starting, you’ll find this resource invaluable. For those yet to begin planning, the playbook offers a significant head start, potentially saving you time and money.

The Taiwan Contingency Playbook is available now. Please get in touch to arrange a preview or for pricing information.

Vientiane Writing Retreat

For those of you following my progress with the Field Guide for Information Security, you’re aware that I’ve fallen a bit behind on my self-imposed deadline. To make some headway, I decided to escape for a week and focus solely on writing.

On a whim, I chose Vientiane as my writing retreat destination. However, I didn’t anticipate arriving right at the start of the Pi Mai (Lao new year) festival period.

Luckily, the scorching temperatures and the ever-present threat of being drenched in water forced me to stay indoors, which helped me avoid distractions and concentrate on writing. And write I did—quite a lot, in fact.

Despite my productive week, I’m still not finished with the book. It seems that every new piece of knowledge leads to yet another door to explore.

To give you a sneak peek, here’s a high-level overview of the book’s current structure:

  1. Introduction. This opening chapter defines information in the context of travel and lays the groundwork for understanding risk management.
  2. Key Principles. This section delves into vital security principles, such as appreciating threats and risks, maintaining a low profile, carrying only essential information, applying compartmentalization, and following baseline security practices.
  3. Evaluating Threats. This chapter examines various types of threats, from intelligence services and military intelligence to law enforcement, militia groups, terrorists, and criminals. It also offers a framework for rationalizing and prioritizing threats.
  4. Preparation. This chapter emphasises the importance of managing your personal profile, including your social media presence, and shares strategies for protecting private information.
  5. Technical Fundamentals. This section focuses on basic security aspects, such as passwords, multi-factor authentication, Wi-Fi security, and virtual private networks.
  6. Device Hardening. This chapter explains how to secure a range of devices, including mobile phones, laptops, satellite phones, mobile hotspots, cameras, and removable media.
  7. Application Security. This chapter covers the principles of application security, offering guidance on using password managers, web browsers, messaging applications, email applications, and other productivity tools securely.
  8. Social Networks. This chapter discusses the risks associated with social media, touching on information gathering, targeting, and restrictions, while also providing advice on securing social media accounts and managing online activity to mitigate risk.
  9. Document Security. This chapter explores techniques for securing documents in transit and at their destination, as well as proper document destruction.
  10. Airports, Hotels, & Cafes (placeholder title). This chapter integrates the techniques and technologies covered in previous chapters, focusing on securing information in various contexts, such as airports, hotels, cafes, co-working spaces, and vehicles.
  11. On The Ground (placeholder title). This section offers guidance on maintaining security while navigating unfamiliar territory, including moving on the street, end-of-day routines, social media, emergencies, and exiting the country.
  12. Laying Low. This chapter shares strategies for staying under the radar in high-threat environments, reducing visibility, influencing perceptions, and navigating insular environments.
  13. Staying Off Grid. The final chapter concentrates on techniques for staying off the grid, including minimising your digital footprint when using Wi-Fi, mobile networks, payment systems, accommodations, and public transport.

Of course, this brief outline doesn’t capture all the details. Rest assured, I’ve taken a thorough approach. Crucially, the book explains complex technologies and techniques in plain language, making it accessible and practical for all travelers.

The biggest question right now is whether it remains a field guide or becomes a standalone book. Given the level of detail, I’m currently leaning towards the latter.


Training workshops and customised training solutions.

Taiwan Contingency Planning Workshop

Based on our work with the Taiwan Contingency Playbook, we’ve also designed a new workshop that’s focused on contingency planning for Taiwan.

In this workshop, you will learn how to:

  • Evaluate different conflict scenarios
  • Appreciate how the unique geography of Taiwan affects planning
  • Develop frameworks to guide timely decision making
  • Analyse the factors that affect evacuation planning
  • Develop sound strategies to support employees and family members unable to leave the country

The Taiwan Contingency Planning Workshop is ideal for executive teams and regional crisis management teams. If your organisation is interested in participating in this workshop, please get in touch. This workshop can be delivered remotely or on site.

We also offer customised training options within each of our four specialities: crisis management, travel security, security evacuations and intrusion testing.


Updates on our in-house gear, sharing a behind-the-scene look at our design and manufacturing processes.

This month, I’ve been devoting a significant portion of my time to design and prototyping, and I’m excited to share some updates with you.


I’ve been hard at work updating and refining the designs for our ‘Street’ range of bags and accessories, incorporating feedback from recent prototypes. The range now features six products, including the Street Satchel. I’ve updated the design drawings and started the process of breaking down the construction process step by step, complete with detailed measurements and notes.


I’m currently testing the second production prototype of the Street Belt. As it still has a few issues to iron out, I plan to create one more prototype with inexpensive materials before moving on to a prototype with production materials.

Additionally, I have the first prototype of the redesigned Street Pack in hand. I came up with the new design during the flight back from Vientiane. The updated Street Pack is now more versatile and useful.

My original designs for the Street Pack have been shifted to a separate travel/field range. One major hurdle with the initial design was implementing a modular approach as I had envisioned. Thankfully, some recently released components might provide a solution. I’ve ordered these components for testing, and I’m hopeful they’ll be just what the pack needs.


I’m seriously considering moving away from DCF and fully embracing Challenge materials, specifically the UltraWeave 400 fabric. UltraWeave is not only more durable than DCF, but also has a good texture. Plus, transitioning to a single type of material would streamline production, which is always a bonus.

Supply Chain

At the moment, shipping costs account for a large portion of total expenses. I’ve been searching for new suppliers and creative ways to reduce shipping costs. To help with this, I’ve created a spreadsheet that breaks down shipping costs at the unit level (per meter for fabric, webbing, and zips, and per piece for components). This allows me to see the full impact of shipping costs across the product lines and identify areas for improvement. It’s a meticulous process, but a necessary one.


The most exciting news this month is that I’m nearing the completion of a new manufacturing approach. This new strategy will enable larger volume production while also enhancing quality. If all goes according to plan, production could begin as early as May or June.

Of course, the entire project is not without its risks and uncertainties. Material and shipping costs could rise, or the manufacturer may decide not to proceed. Regardless, I’m taking things one step at a time and moving forward with cautious optimism.

ALSO: I’ve managed to find two Street Satchel DCF bags. If you’re interested in purchasing one, please email me. They could be the last two DCF versions ever made…


Our latest articles and updates on selected publications.

Dangerous Travels

Dangerous Travels is our weekly article focused on travel safety and security.

The Dangerous Travels articles this month focused on aviation safety and security and journey management:

Aviation Safety: Balancing the Risks.

A quick introduction to the factors that increase the risk for travellers when flying, and what to consider on when evaluating the decision to fly or drive in developing countries.

Aviation Safety: Sourcing Risk Information.

Six sources you can use to assess aviation-related risks, and some recommendations for organisations on how to manage the risks associated with flying.

An Introduction to Journey Management.

A brief introduction to journey management, covering three principles of effective journey management and introducing the Travel Risk Exposure Framework as a prioritisation tool.

End-to-End Journey Management.

Approaches to mitigate risk at various stages of travel, including airlines, meet-and-greet services, hotels, and local transport.

The Business of Security

In addition to Dangerous Travels, I’m also writing a weekly article for The Business of Security. These articles focus on the practical aspects of setting up and running a company as an independent security professional.

This month, the Business of Security continued to focus on preparing to leave your current organisation for a life as an independent security professional.

Building a Professional Network.

Defining the characteristics of a good professional network, and how to design your network to ensure it’s usable and easy to maintain.

Becoming an intrapreneur.

Learn how to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset within your current organisation to develop the skills and experience necessary to succeed as an independent security professional.

Seeing (and Feeling) the Tipping Point.

How do you know when you’re ready to leave your current company and establish your own independent consulting practice?

Don’t Burn Bridges.

How to avoid some of the ethical dilemmas inherent with leaving your current organisation and setting up your own operation as an independent security professional.

The next few articles will focus on designing your business.


We’ve published a number of books on crisis management, travel security and security evacuations. These books have been purchased by travellers, security professionals, organisations and universities.

These books are available in PDF and on Apple Books.

Bulk Orders

If your organisation or team would benefit from the knowledge and experience contained in our books, please reach out. We can provide discounts for bulk sales.


Links to interesting articles worth your time. This month: The rising threat from China, broken Twitter, Russian mercenaries, GPS interference maps, and other articles worth your time.

Mexicans say some police officers are taking bribes with mobile payment services: This article reports on allegations that some Mexican police officers are accepting bribes through mobile payment services.

The Expanding Dark Forest and Generative AI: The author delves into the implications of generative AI and its potential impact on human creativity and online ecosystems.

Glen Grant. 2023 – a time and chance for military change in Ukraine: This article discusses the potential for military reform in Ukraine in 2023.

China Has Been Waging a Decades-Long, All-Out Spy War: The article examines China’s extensive and long-running espionage efforts against other nations.

The AI Index Report: This report provides an overview of global AI developments, trends, and advancements.

Russia’s Wagner Group is a feature not a bug of the Putin regime: The article explores the role of Russia’s Wagner Group as a key element of Putin’s regime and its geopolitical ambitions.

Explore the global assets of Russia’s oligarchs and enablers Russian Asset Tracker OCCRP: This interactive tool provides insight into the global assets of Russia’s oligarchs and their enablers.

Tsai Ing-wen’s US trip: the deepening political divide in Taiwan: The article discusses the impact of Tsai Ing-wen’s US trip on Taiwan’s political landscape and growing divide.

Former top Mossad agent on the modus operandi of Iran’s intelligence: In this interview, a former top Mossad agent shares insights into Iran’s intelligence operations and methods.

Truffle Hunting in Syria, Once a Beloved Pastime, Is Now a Danger: This article explores how truffle hunting in Syria, once a cherished tradition, has become increasingly dangerous due to the ongoing conflict.

China’s struggles with lab safety carry danger of another pandemic: The article investigates China’s lab safety issues and the potential risk of sparking another pandemic.

The Challenges of Conducting Open Source Research on China: This article highlights the difficulties and challenges faced by researchers conducting open-source research on China.

The Car Thieves Using Tech Disguised Inside Old Nokia Phones and Bluetooth Speakers: This article reveals how car thieves are using technology hidden inside old Nokia phones and Bluetooth speakers to steal vehicles.

Elon Musk Has Broken Disaster-Response Twitter: How Elon Musk has hampered the use of Twitter as an invaluable tool during disaster-response efforts.

The researchers aiming to foresee — and prevent — war: This article examines efforts by researchers to use AI and big data to predict and prevent armed conflicts.

State-controlled media experience sudden Twitter gains after unannounced platform policy change: The article reports on a sudden increase in Twitter followers for state-controlled media accounts following an unannounced change in platform policies.

A causal test of the strength of weak ties: This scientific study explores the strength of weak social ties and their impact on social networks.

How to keep out foreign researchers? A history in five parts: The article provides a historical overview of strategies employed to prevent foreign researchers from accessing sensitive information.

These are Putin’s spies in Sweden: This investigative report reveals the activities of Russian spies operating within Sweden.

China’s Expanded Spy Law Adds to Chilling Effect of Detentions: The article discusses the impact of China’s expanded counter-espionage law on detentions and surveillance activities.

Counter-espionage Law of the P.R.C. (2023 ed.): This is the English translation of China’s updated counter-espionage law for 2023.

GPSJam GPS/GNSS Interference Map: This online tool provides a map of reported GPS and GNSS interference incidents worldwide.

U.S. Begins Overland Evacuation of American Civilians From Sudan: The article reports on the US government’s efforts to evacuate American civilians from Sudan amidst ongoing conflict.

That’s it for this month folks.

Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.

Grant Rayner Spartan9

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