|Platform||Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2012, Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Vista, Windows 8.1, Linux, Windows 10|
|Permissions Required||User, Administrator, SYSTEM|
|Data Sources||File monitoring, Process monitoring, Process command-line parameters|
|Defense Bypassed||Host forensic analysis|
Timestomping is a technique that modifies the timestamps of a file (the modify, access, create, and change times), often to mimic files that are in the same folder. This is done, for example, on files that have been modified or created by the adversary so that they do not appear conspicuous to forensic investigators or file analysis tools. Timestomping may be used along with file name Masquerading to hide malware and tools.1
- APT28 has performed timestomping on victim files.2
- APT32 has used scheduled task raw XML with a backdated timestamp of June 2, 2016.3
- Several Lazarus Group malware families use timestomping, including modifying the last write timestamp of a specified Registry key to a random date, as well as copying the timestamp for legitimate .exe files (such as calc.exe or mspaint.exe) to its dropped files.45
- 3PARA RAT has a command to set certain attributes such as creation/modification timestamps on files.6
- Cobalt Strike will timestomp any files or payloads placed on a target machine to help them blend in.7
- The Derusbi malware supports timestomping.89
- Elise performs timestomping of a CAB file it creates.10
- Many Misdat samples were programmed using Borland Delphi, which will mangle the default PE compile timestamp of a file.11
- OwaAuth has a command to timestop a file or directory.12
- POSHSPY modifies timestamps of all downloaded executables to match a randomly selected file created prior to 2013.13
- Psylo has a command to conduct timestomping by setting a specified file’s timestamps to match those of a system file in the System32 directory.14
- USBStealer sets the timestamps of its dropper files to the last-access and last-write timestamps of a standard Windows library chosen on the system.15
Mitigation of timestomping specifically is likely difficult. Efforts should be focused on preventing potentially malicious software from running. Identify and block potentially malicious software that may contain functionality to perform timestomping by using whitelisting16 tools like AppLocker1718 or Software Restriction Policies19 where appropriate.20
Forensic techniques exist to detect aspects of files that have had their timestamps modified.1 It may be possible to detect timestomping using file modification monitoring that collects information on file handle opens and can compare timestamp values.
- Carvey, H. (2013, July 23). HowTo: Determine/Detect the use of Anti-Forensics Techniques. Retrieved June 3, 2016.
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- Falcone, R. and Miller-Osborn, J.. (2016, January 24). Scarlet Mimic: Years-Long Espionage Campaign Targets Minority Activists. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
- Calvet, J. (2014, November 11). Sednit Espionage Group Attacking Air-Gapped Networks. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
- Beechey, J. (2010, December). Application Whitelisting: Panacea or Propaganda?. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- Tomonaga, S. (2016, January 26). Windows Commands Abused by Attackers. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
- NSA Information Assurance Directorate. (2014, August). Application Whitelisting Using Microsoft AppLocker. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
- Corio, C., & Sayana, D. P. (2008, June). Application Lockdown with Software Restriction Policies. Retrieved November 18, 2014.
- Microsoft. (2012, June 27). Using Software Restriction Policies and AppLocker Policies. Retrieved April 7, 2016.