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Timestomping is the action of modifying the timestamps of a file (on Windows systems, on a NTFS partition). It can notably be used to evade digital forensic investigation by making malicious files look legitimate or being out of the presupposed attack timeframe.

This technique is identified by MITRE ATT&CK T1070.006.

The MACB timestamps in the $STANDARD_INFORMATION attributes can be modified by standard users while the $FILENAME attributes can only be modified by / through the Windows kernel. The modification of a file $STANDARD_INFORMATION attribute requires the rights to modify the file attributes (FullControl, Modify, Write, WriteAttributes) which is granted by default to the file owner.

Note that in addition to being the ones that can be easily modified, the MACB timestamps from the $STANDARD_INFORMATION attribute are conveniently the ones (generally) displayed by the Windows Explorer.

For more information on Windows timestamps, refer to the [DFIR] Windows - Artefacts - Timestamps note.

Timestomping detection

Most of timestomping detections below rely on information stored in the $MFT file. Refer to the [DFIR] Windows - MFT note for more information on how to parse the $MFT artefact.


Timestomping can be detected by comparing the $STANDARD_INFORMATION and $FILENAME timestamps of a given file in the MFT. Indeed, if the timestamps from $STANDARD_INFORMATION (easily modifiable) are older than the $FILENAME timestamps (not (easily) modifiable), the file timestamps may have been timestomped.

**However, as the $FILENAME MAB timestamps are updated / copied from the $STANDARD_INFORMATION MAB timestamps on file rename or volume-local file move, $FILENAME timestamps can also be (undirectly) tampered.

Additionally, This detection method is however prone to false-positives as some applications or installers may modify the $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps.

MFTECmd can be used to parse the MFT of a NTFS volume and automatically highlight the files having $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps older than their $FILENAME timestamps.

UsnJrnl records

Data from the UsnJrnl artefact may reveal recent operations on timestomped files. For instance, a USN_REASON_FILE_CREATE record logged in the UsnJrnl for a seemingly older file could be an indicator of timestomping.

Additionally, an USN_REASON_BASIC_INFO_CHANGE (+ USN_REASON_CLOSE) record would be logged in the UsnJrnl following the timestomping of a file. The presence of such indicator is however not necessarily a strong indicator of timestomping as many other attributes change would also trigger a similar record to be logged in the UsnJrnl.

This detection method is however prone to false-negatives as the UsnJrnl has usually limited historical data.

Refer to the [DFIR] Windows - UsnJrnl note for more information on how to parse the UsnJrnl artefact.

MFT $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps precision

The timestomping tool used may have limitation on the time precision they it for timestomped timestamps. For example, the tool may only allow precision down to the second level, while the $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps are precise down to the ten millionths of a second. In such case, the timestomped timestamps will be padded with zeros in place of the actual milli-seconds: YYYY-MM-DD hh:mm:ss.0000000.

This detection method is however prone to false-positives as some utilities or file formats, such as file-archives, may truncate timestamps down the second level.

MFT entry numbers

$MFT entry numbers grow sequentially, with older files generally having lower entry numbers than more recent files. The $MFT entry numbers should thus grow linearly with the $STANDARD_INFORMATION created / birth timestamp (with usual exceptions in the days-range: files older by a few days may have slightly higher entry numbers than relatively more recent files).

This detection method is however prone to false-positives as $MFT entry numbers of deleted files may be re-used (especially for NTFS partitions on SSDs).











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