Detection of Backdating the System Clock in Windows

By Xiaoxi Fan

In the digital forensic industry, evidence concerning date and time is a fundamental part of many investigations. As one of the most commonly used anti-forensic approaches,
system backdating has appeared in more and more investigations. Since the system clock can be set back manually, it is important for investigators to identify the reliability of date
and time so as to make further decision. However, there is no simple way to tell whether the system clock has been backdated or tampered especially when it was subsequently
reset to the correct time. There are a variety of artifacts to detect the behavior of backdating the system clock. If the investigator needs to prove the hypothesis that “the
system clock has not been backdated,” he or she must examine multiple artifacts for corroboration.
This paper presents three categories of related objects, showing how they work together in detecting system clock backdating: (1) system artifacts (e.g. Windows event log, $MFT, $Logfile, $UsnJrnl, Volume Shadow Copy, $STDINFO and $FILENAME timestamps, and Windows update logs); (2) application artifacts (e.g. antivirus update log and cloud storage sync log); and (3) Internet artifacts (e.g. Internet history and email). The paper intends to put together these artifacts and serve as a reference for investigators to detect system clock backdating.

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