A given file may be associated with up to 20 timestamps: $STANDARD_INFORMATION + 2 * $FILENAME + 2 * NTFS $I30 $FILENAME (duplicate $FILENAME for files with short and long names).


On NTFS filesystems, each file posses (at least) two attributes that hold (among other information) Modification, Access, Change and Birth (MACB) timestamps:


The impact of a number of operations on each timestamps for the $STANDARD_INFORMATION and $FILENAME attributes are detailed in the SANS’s Windows Time Rules poster. Globally, the following points should be noted:

  • $FILENAME MACB timestamps are updated on file creation / copy / volume move with the date of the operation itself but are not reliability updated on regular file operations (access, modification, rename, deletion). However as the $FILENAME MAB timestamps are updated / copied from the $STANDARD_INFORMATION MAB timestamps, on file rename or volume-local file move, they are prone to false-negatives. Indeed, by timestomping the $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps then renaming or moving the file, the $FILENAME timestamps will be indirectly timestomped as well.

  • On file copy (between two NTFS partitions): the $STANDARD_INFORMATION MC timestamps are inherited from the original file but the $STANDARD_INFORMATION AB timestamps (and the $FILENAME MACB timestamps) are the ones of the copy itself.

  • On local file moves (on the same NTFS partition), the $STANDARD_INFORMATION C $FILENAME C timestamps are updated with the timestamp of the move. On file moves (between NTFS partitions), the $STANDARD_INFORMATION AC timestamps are updated, also with the timestamp of the move.

  • The update of the $STANDARD_INFORMATION A timestamp is unreliable and depends on the value of the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\FileSystem\NtfsDisableLastAccessUpdate registry key. The following values may be encountered:

    • 0 (default on Windows XP), 80000000 (User managed), 80000002 (System managed) means that last access updates are enabled. Starting from Windows Redstone 4 (Build 1803 of 04/2018), last access updates seem to be enabled (back) by default if the system partition size is <= to 128 GiB. Starting from Windows 10 20H1 (Build 18970 of 05/2020) last access updates seem to be enabled by default independently of the system partition size.

    • 1 (default from Windows Vista to early Windows 10 versions), 80000001 (User managed), 80000003 means that last access updates are disabled.

Depending on its filename length, a given file may have one or two $FILENAME attributes:

  • file with short name will have a single $FILENAME attribute.

  • file with long name will be associated to two $FILENAME attributes, one for the long file name and a second for the MS-DOS-compatible short file name (FILENA~1.TXT for example).

Additionally, another $FILENAME attribute can be found for each file in the directory index of their directory of residency. Indeed directory are stored on NTFS partitions as B+ tree data structure with the keys, representing files and subdirectories, stored as $FILENAME attributes. MACB timestamps for each file and subdirectory of a given directory can thus be found in the directory index. The directory index are stored in NTFS Index Attribute files, also known as INDX files and named $I30 on disk.

A given file may thus be associated with either:


  • 20 timestamps: $STANDARD_INFORMATION + 2 * $FILENAME + 2 * NTFS $I30’s $FILENAME (duplicate timestamps for files with long name).

Timestomping detection

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.

Most of timestomping detections below rely on information stored in the $MFT file. Refer to the $MFT page for more information on how to parse the $MFT artefact.

$STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps older than $FILENAME timestamps

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 $UsnJrnl page for more information on how to parse the UsnJrnl artefact.

Non nano-second precise $STANDARD_INFORMATION timestamps

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 milliseconds: 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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