timeline analysis


New Member
Feb 19, 2018
Hello team, got a log that shows a file was accessed in a folder before the actual folder was created. It appears svchost.exe was accessed before folder dllhost was created. Can someone explain what is happening here?
Timestamp Macb File Name
2012-04-03 15:40:19 .a..  C:/Windows/System32/dllhost/svchost.exe
2012-04-03 16:35:07 ...b  C:/Windows/System32/dllhost


New Member
Mar 5, 2018
Hi amrogers3,
Rule No. 2:
When M time is before C time, the file has been
copied from one system into the same/another system or moved
from one partition to another partition.
From: The Rules of Time on NTFS File System, K.P. Chow, Frank Y.W. Law, Michael Y.K. Kwan, K.Y. Lai
Can be found at i.cs.hku.hk/cisc/forensics/papers/RuleOfTime.pdf (a bit old now)

[Please note that the doc uses (c)reation and not (b)irth. They have only "mac" time]

Well you have "a" and not "m", but the principle is clear. It was modified/accessed before the file was created. So how can that be?

If you have a look at the SANS poster Digital-Forensics-and-Incident-Response-Poster-2012.pdf (p2, google), you see how the timeline is changing if a files is copied of moved. But you never see "a" or "b" time before "c"time.

All that does not apply 100% on your case. So I would say the file was in an zipped archive and was unzipped.

To prove that, I created a directory new1 and a file a.txt in it. After waiting some seconds I zipped (7z) the whole directory. After waiting again, I unzipped the new1.7z.

Not I got a new1 directory with a a.txt with a "a" time older than the "b" and/or "m" time.

Conclusion: If a "a" or "m" time is before the file was created, it could have been that a directory was zipped and unzipped.

Of course, anti forensics (such as timestomp) can change the mac time as the way you like, too.
Sep 2, 2004
Three questions...

First, what did you use to create the timeline?

What version of Windows is the system being analyzed?

What else happened 'near' the event?



Experienced Member
Oct 23, 2018
Realise this is an old thread now, but I agree with chris- 's answer ... most likely scenario is folder was copied from another location. Good response.


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