Stealth is about Timing

One stealth concept I’ve often found to be poorly understood; is that speed does have a very important place. I think that often when we thinking of ‘stealth’ and ‘sneaking’ we tend to think about slowly moving, so as to avoid making any sound. Often, less experienced stealth practitioners will default to creeping along slowly, even when fully exposed to light (ex. silhouetted against a light source). Sometimes, you’ll see those same less experienced folks trying to avoid visual detection by crawling slowly along the ground – or by crouching really low – which is not always helpful!

Here’s the deal. In many situations, you’re going to be better off moving quickly. That is, even if moving quickly makes a fair amount of noise! If you’re trying to cross a lit hallway, it’s often better to dash across, even if this makes a bit of noise or might draw attention. You’re probably more likely to be seen by someone if they turn to look – and you happen to still be in the hallway – in the light. So just don’t be in the hallway in the light when that happens!

I know this sounds like a really simple “no duh” sort of concept.. but for some reason it seems like many people who start to practice stealth really do just default to moving slowly, creeping along, to their own detriment!

Speed and timing – when applied together – will benefit you far more, than a perfectly quiet step (though if you’d like to learn more about stealth walking, you can check out my post on it here.)

But you still don’t want to be super loud or anything. There is a technique I like to call the ‘shadow dash’ which you should practice – to help you master quickly moving from point to point. The skill is quite straight forward, but it’s not something that everyone is good at by default. You need to be able to quickly right your body – to get up from a crouch – or from the ground; then quickly and quietly move to a nearby point. One you arrive at your new point – you should be able to get into hiding within an instant.

Again this all sounds really simple. It’s not! You’ll find that for most people, this simple set of moves will be quite hard. They might jostle around as they try to dash quietly. They might struggle to standup quickly from a crouch. Even worse, when you’ve arrived at your next hiding spot, many people will carefully and slowly move into that hiding spot in a way that reveals where they’re at to observers (Quick tip, consider wearing knee pads, this enables you to quickly move to the ground with less fear of injury).

One more thing to add to this conversation – is the observation skills of the stealth practitioner. You want to be in a place where you cannot be seen, but where you can see others. What’s most important when moving with good speed and timing, is to be able to apply your observation to select the right timing to move. You need to place a premium on being able to observe those from whom you are hiding. Even if not with your eyes, practice tracking the location of others through sound, memory, and sometimes even simple deduction (they were walking down a hallway, they will likely continue…).

To recap: don’t just move slowly and quietly. Sometimes it’s better to move with speed – and good timing! Make sure you practice doing this even though it sounds simple. Focus on observation to enable these skills.

About the author

Professional hacker & security engineer. Currently at Google, opinions all my own. On Twitter as @zaeyx. Skydiver, snowboarder, writer, weightlifter, runner, energetic to the point of being a bit crazy.

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