ActiveDirectory replication metadata

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The Active Directory replication metadata hold information about change made on an Active Directory object. Every object within Active Directory stores replication metadata, in their msDS-ReplAttributeMetaData and msDS-ReplValueMetaData attributes.

The replication metadata is used by the Domain Controllers to replicate modifications and, as so, only attributes that are replicated will be logged in the replication metadata. As stated in the Microsoft documentation: "every attribute in [the Active Directory] Schema has a flag called FLAG_ATTR_NOT_REPLICATED. If this flag value is True (1), that attribute is not included in AD Replication. If the attribute value is False (0), then that attribute is replicated". Upon creation of an object, all replicated attributes that are automatically populated will be logged in the replication metadata.

The msDS-ReplAttributeMetaData attribute stores replication metadata for regular replicated attributes, while the msDS-ReplValueMetaData attribute stores replication metadata for linked attributes.

The replication metadata is stored in the msDS-ReplAttributeMetaData attribute as a XML with the following notable fields:

  • pszAttributeName: the name of the attribute replicated.

  • dwVersion: a replication counter, incremented upon each modification of the associated attribute.

  • ftimeLastOriginatingChange: last change timestamp.

  • pszLastOriginatingDsaDN: Domain Controller from which originated the last change. More precisely, the distinguished name of the NTDS Settings (type Domain Controller Settings) of the Domain Controller.

  • uuidLastOriginatingDsaInvocationID: invocationId of the Domain Controller (stored in the Domain Controller 's NTDS Settings).

As stated, the msDS-ReplValueMetaData attribute hold replication metadata for the linked attributes, which were introduced in Windows Server 2003 functional level to reduce replication data. Linked attributes are pairs of two attributes, with the values of one attribute, denominated the back link, being based on the values set on the other attribute, denominated the forward link. Only the forward link attributes are replicated, which allow to reduce replication metadata.

For instance, the groups's member attribute is the forward link for the user and computer accounts' memberOf attribute. The member attribute of group objects holds, in addition to the fields introduced above, information on when the principal was added (ftimeCreated field) or deleted (ftimeDeleted field) from the group.

Replication metadata enumeration and timelining

The attributes that are / are not replicated can be listed using the following PowerShell queries (that make use of the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT)'s PowerShell ActiveDirectory module):

# DOMAIN_ROOT = "DC=LAB,DC=AD" for example

# Lists the attributes which are replicated.
Get-ADObject -SearchBase 'CN=schema,CN=configuration,<DOMAIN_ROOT>' -LDAPFilter '(&(objectClass=attributeSchema)(!systemFlags:1.2.840.113556.1.4.803:=1))' | Select-Object -Expand name

# Lists the attributes which are NOT replicated.
Get-ADObject -SearchBase 'CN=schema,CN=configuration,<DOMAIN_ROOT>' -LDAPFilter '(&(objectClass=attributeSchema)(systemFlags:1.2.840.113556.1.4.803:=1))' | Select-Object -Expand name

The repadmin utility and the Get-ADReplicationAttributeMetadata PowerShell cmdlet (introduced in Windows Server 2012) can be used to enumerate the replication metadata of a specified object:

repadmin /showobjmeta /Linked <. | DC_HOSTNAME> "<DISTINGUISHED_NAME>"

Get-ADReplicationAttributeMetadata -Server <DC> -IncludeDeletedObjects –ShowAllLinkedValues "<DISTINGUISHED_NAME>"

The ADTimeline PowerShell script can be used to automate the enumeration of the replication metadata and consolidates the modifications in a timeline. Only the objects "considered of interest" are listed (more details on the project GitHub repository).

In order to access the objects in the tombstone, the account used to execute the script must be able to read the object placed the Deleted Objects Container. It is thus advised to execute the script with Domain Admins privileges. Otherwise, only the replication metadata of existing objects will be enumerated.

.\AD-timeline.ps1 -Server <GLOBAL_CATALOG_FQDN>

# Offline mode, with the NTDS database being mounted using dsamain (requires AD LDS and RSAT to be installed)
# If it also necessary for the AD WS service to be running, which may not be the case by default.

dsamain.exe -dbpath <NTDS_DIT_PATH> -ldapport 3266 -allownonadminaccess

.\AD-timeline.ps1 -server ""

Replication metadata of interest

The following replicated attribute (in a default configuration) could be of interest for digital forensics and incident response purposes.



User accounts or groups.

If adminCount equal 1, successful elevation of privileges, that is adding of the object in a group protected by the AdminSDHolder mechanism. If adminCount is set to 0, potential manual concealing of previously obtained privileges, after removal of the object from a privileged group protected by the AdminSDHolder mechanism.


Security principals.

Refer to lastLogon v. lastLogonTimestamp below for more information.



Information on when a given principal was added or removed from the group. While the list of present principals is exhaustive, the replication metadata of removed principal will only persist for the tombstone lifetime of the Active Directory domain. An odd dwVersion value means that the user is still a member of the group while an even dwVersion value means that the user was removed from the group.

msDS-AllowedToDelegateTo msDS-AllowedToActOnBehalfOfOtherIdentity

User or computer accounts.

Setting or modification of Kerberos constrained delegation or resource-based constrained delegation (RBCD).


Any securable objects: user or computer accounts, groups, Organizational Unit (OU), AdminSDHolder container, etc.

Modification of the security descriptor of a securable object, linked to a potential change of ownership or DACL modification.


User or computer accounts.

Modification of an account primaryGroupID attribute, potentially linked to persistence purposes.


User accounts.

Modification of an user's logon script.


User or computer accounts.

Setting or modification of an user or computer account's Service Principal Name (SPN).


Security principals.

Setting or modification of a security principal SID History, potentially for persistence or trusts hopping purposes.


User or computer accounts.

Setting or modification of an user or computer account's userPrincipalName, potentially related to certificate-authentication attacks.




lastLogon v. lastLogonTimestamp

Every account in Active Directory, be it an user or computer account, has both a lastLogon and a lastLogonTimestamp attributes.

The lastLogon attribute of an account is immediately updated upon a successful authentication of the account. The lastLogon attribute is however (by default) not replicated, and is thus only updated on the Domain Controller that provided the authentication.

On the other hand, the lastLogonTimestamp attribute of an account is replicated by default but will only be updated if the difference between the previous value and new value is greater than the default naming context's ms-DS-Logon-Time-Sync-Interval attribute. By default the value for this attribute is not set, and takes default to 14 days.

Knowing precisely when the account last connected thus requires to enumerate the account's lastLogon attribute on all the Domain Controllers of the forest.

Both the lastLogon and a lastLogonTimestamp attributes are stored as UNIX time: 32-bit value containing the number of seconds elapsed since 1/1/1970. Both attributes store time values in Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Refer to the [DFIR] Windows - Timestamps note for information on how to convert these timestamps to an human readable format.


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