Spartan9 Dispatch for March 2023

This month - Contingency planning in Taiwan, training workshops, gear updates, links to our latest articles, plus an update on The Field Guide to Information Security.


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

Taiwan Contingency Planning

This month, I spent 10 days in Taiwan. The purpose of the trip was to validate key assumptions related to contingency planning for a China/Taiwan conflict scenario.

All in all, I drove a total of 1,549 kilometres. Not much over 10 days, until you factor in the fact that speeds over the mountain routes average around 25 km/hr.

One of my key objectives on the trip was to drive the cross-island routes from the major population centres along the west coast across the mountains to the east coast. These routes include:

  • Route 7, from Taipei and Taoyuan to Yilan (Northern Cross-Island Highway)
  • Routes 14 and 8, from Taichung to Hualien
  • Route 20, from Tainan and Kaohsiung to Chihshang and subsequently to Taitung (Southern -Cross-Island Highway)
  • Route 9, from Shihzih Township to Daren Township

These cross-island routes are vulnerable to a range of factors that will impact movement from west to east. Some of the routes have ongoing construction, with movement permitted only at certain times of the day. In fact, ongoing construction and limited time windows for movement make some routes effectively inaccessible.

Along the routes, I captured multiple sources of imagery, including 360-degree video, GoPro video, and still images. I also compiled route sheets identifying potential choke points (e.g., bridges, tunnels, and narrow sections of road) and hazards (e.g., sections prone to landslide or ice, and construction work).

I also drove the full length of the east coast, assessing roads and infrastructure in various communities. I drove south down route 11 from Hualien to Daren Township, along the coastal road. Then, I drove north along the inland road from Chihshang Township to the north of the country, along routes 9 and 2.

I will compile the information gathered into a comprehensive Taiwan Contingency Plan detailing different courses of action in the event of armed conflict. The plan will provide detailed instructions for air evacuation, maritime evacuation, shelter in place, and domestic relocation.

The Taiwan Contingency Plan will be a shared product, allowing us to provide competitive pricing. You’ll be getting the benefits of several months of work for the price of a few days consulting.

If your organisation has exposure in Taiwan and would like to learn more, please reach out. Aside from the Taiwan Contingency Plan, I’m also available to provide tailored briefings on different aspects of crisis preparation for Taiwan.


Training workshops and customised training solutions.

Each month, I’ll showcase one of our training workshops.

Crisis Response Fundamentals

The Crisis Response Fundamentals workshop teaches participants the basics of responding to a crisis, including processes, managing information, managing tasks, identifying and managing resources, and managing communications.

In this workshop, participants will learn how to:

  • Apply a crisis management process
  • Gather and process information during a crisis
  • Manage tasks during a crisis
  • Identify and manage resources during a crisis
  • Identify with and communicate to stakeholders during a crisis
  • The workshop culminates with a short exercise, providing the opportunity for participants to put theory into practice in a simulated crisis environment.

Learn more about the Crisis Response Fundamentals workshop here.

All our workshops can be delivered remotely or on site.

We also offer customised training options within each of our four specialities.


Updates on our in-house gear.

We’re sold out of all Street Satchels, which is equally good and bad.

If you’d like to order a Street Satchel from the next batch, you can pre-order here. As mentioned last month, we’ve also had an online review.

Production is on hold for now. I’m waiting on new webbing and Kevlar cord from Germany, and a new batch of customised YKK zips from Taiwan and Vietnam. As soon as the new supplies are in, I’ll get to work on a new batch of Street Satchels.

Once I have the new batch made, I’ll also be taking more product photos (I realise these are lacking on the website right now - sorry about that).

The idea of the Street Satchel Mk II is dead for now. The major changes I had in mind, specifically a new sling mounting system using 50mm UHMWPE webbing, didn’t work well during prototyping. While technically an improvement over the current polyester sling, the webbing is too thin to sit well and tends to slide too easily through adjustment mechanisms.

That said, I’ve already made a number of minor iterative improvements to the Street Satchel. I’ve changed the zip puller to use 2mm Kevlar cord with new acetal cord ends. I’ve also designed a new modular sling, with two special 3-point quick release buckles. These innovations have come about as a result of ongoing testing of different components on my own Street Satchel over the last year.

There are two products in the design and prototyping stage: the Street Belt and the Street Pack. I updated the pack design while on the road in Taiwan. The new design is very cool and I’m super excited to get my hand on the prototype in a few weeks. I’m also working on an expansion pack for the Street Satchel.

As always, I’m balancing this work with other priorities, so it gets done when it gets done.


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 hotel security:

Hotel Security in Higher-Risk Environments - Part 1

An introduction to hotel security, covering the types of vulnerabilities you’ll face as a traveller and the factors that influence hotel security. Read here.

Hotel Security in Higher-Risk Environments - Part 2

A deep dive into the types of security features you should expect to see at a hotel in a higher-risk location. Read here.

Hotel Security in Higher-Risk Environments - Part 3

What security measures you should expect at a hotel in a location where there is a risk from terrorism? Read here.

Hotel Security in Higher-Risk Environments - Part 4

A deep dive into personnel and vehicle search practices at hotels where there’s a risk from terrorism. Read here.

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.

Business of Security articles this month:

Size matters (just not how you think it does)

How to avoid some of the problems that come with over inflating the grandeur of your business and how you can leverage the many strengths of being ‘small’. Read here.

Establishing a Professional Presence

How to establish a minimum viable business at the start that provides a professional presence but doesn’t distract you from more important work. Read here.

Getting from there to here

How do you get from where you are now to being a successful independent security professional? What are the prerequisites, and what can you do right now to set yourself up for eventual success? Read here.

Engineering Experience

How you can build your experience while in a security consulting company to set yourself up for success as an independent security professional. Read here.

Establishing your reputation

How you can establish a positive reputation while in a security consulting company to set yourself up for success as an independent security professional. Read here.


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.

The Field Guide to Information Security

It looks like I’m going to miss my self-imposed deadline for the Field Guide to Information Security, which was supposed to be today.

Finding time to focus on this guide has been challenging. I need at least two hours of uninterrupted time per day to make solid progress, but I haven’t been able to get that time for the past few months. It’s entirely my fault and mostly due to feeling tired and distracted.

The hard part of writing this field guide is getting the technical details right for the intended audience. I’m trying to provide sound recommendations to help travellers set up their electronic devices and configure their applications for use in higher-risk environments. Most importantly, I need to ensure that my recommendations are understandable to the average traveler, who may not know what full disk encryption is or what a VPN does. Despite these challenges, I’m still moving forward and hope to have a more positive update next month.

One point of potential interest is that I’ve fully integrated GPT-4 into my writing process. It’s an incredible tool that supports more effective writing.

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, disinformation operations, Russia mercenaries and other articles worth your time.

Two Versions of the Past Battle for Libya’s Future. The country’s present upheaval has led to romanticization of the eras of both the monarchy and Gadhafi’s rule. Read here.

A Private Company Is Using Social Media to Track Down Russian Soldiers. A private intelligence company has used social media to identify Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine, highlighting the growing role of open-source intelligence in modern warfare. Read here.

How Chinese spy agency MSS disrupts the world. The Chinese Ministry of State Security has been accused of carrying out a wide range of espionage activities, including cyber attacks, theft of intellectual property, and influence operations. Read here.

Huawei and TikTok Could Be Bigger Spy Threats Than Chinese Balloons. The Chinese approach to espionage is much less about seizing classified information and much more about building influence. Read here.

How Ukraine is beating Russia’s disinformation campaigns. Ukraine has developed a number of innovative strategies to counter Russian disinformation campaigns, including the creation of a fake separatist group that was used to sow confusion and mistrust among Russian operatives. Read here.

As Russia’s Military Stumbles in Ukraine, Chinese Strategists Are Taking Notes. China is drawing lessons from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Chinese military sources can tell us exactly what the PLA is learning. Read here.

How to make sense of intelligence leaks. Intelligence leaks can be difficult to interpret and understand, but they can also provide valuable insights into the workings of government and intelligence agencies. Read here.

A Basic iPhone Feature Helps Criminals Steal Your Entire Digital Life. Criminals can use the “Erase Data” feature on iPhones to gain access to personal information and steal identities. Read here.

Micronesia’s President Writes Bombshell Letter on China’s ‘Political Warfare’. The president of Micronesia has written a letter to the US warning of the dangers of Chinese political warfare, including attempts to undermine democracy and influence elections. Read here.

How Beijing Boxed America Out of the South China Sea. China has been able to exert significant control over the South China Sea, thanks in part to its use of military force and diplomatic pressure. Read here.

Russia’s Wagner Group in Africa. Growing concerns of the West: Russia’s Wagner Group, a private military contractor, is operating in several countries in Africa, raising concerns about Moscow’s growing influence on the continent. Read here.

Out of Africa: Financial Networks of Islamic State 2.0. Islamic State is continuing to operate financial networks in Africa, using them to fund its operations and spread its ideology. Read here.

Don’t Panic About Taiwan. While tensions between China and Taiwan have been on the rise, there are reasons to believe that a military conflict is not inevitable. Read here.

Think you can land a plane in an emergency? Pilots explain why you can’t. Landing a plane in an emergency situation is much more difficult than it appears, and requires a great deal of skill and training. Read here.

TikTok is part of China’s cognitive warfare campaign. TikTok has been used as part of China’s cognitive warfare campaign, which seeks to influence public opinion and undermine democratic institutions in other countries. Read here.

How to flee house arrest in Russia. Escapees tell their secrets: Russians who have been placed under house arrest have developed a variety of strategies for escaping their confinement, including using fake documents and hiding in plain sight. Read here.

Microsoft brings GPT-4-powered Security Copilot to incident response. Microsoft has developed a new tool to help security teams respond to cyber attacks, using artificial intelligence to identify and mitigate threats. Read here.

War in cities. The International Committee of the Red Cross has released a report on the challenges of fighting wars in urban environments, including the risks to civilians and the difficulty of providing aid. Read here.

How a Montenegrin Gang Used Open-Source Intelligence to Kill. A Montenegrin criminal gang used open-source intelligence to track down and assassinate a rival gang member in Belgrade. Read here.

That’s it for this month folks.

Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.

Grant Rayner Spartan9

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