Process Memory Layout



  • Harini Ramaprasad University of North Carolina - Charlotte


This activity aims to introduce students to the memory layout for processes that execute within a computer system. It is the second in a series of guided inquiry learning style activities that are intended to be incorporated into the Software Security module of a junior / senior level undergraduate course on Introduction to Security and Privacy.  Students are expected to have completed the first activity in the series  - Activity 1: Introduction to C - where they are expected to learn how to create simple C programs using variables, functions and arrays ; understand the structure of strings in C, their memory composition in bytes and the unsafe C function strcpy() ; create and run a C program that uses command-line arguments. Upon completion of the current activity, students should be able to describe the different segments within the main memory of a computer, their growth directions, and relative positions ; describe a stack pointer and program counter, what constitutes a stack frame, how and when they are added and removed from the stack and recognize the current state of the stack when given a program and the current place of execution ; and correctly identify the values of argv and argc when given a command-line input. Students are also expected to develop critical thinking and information processing skills as they work through this activity.

This activity was developed with NSF support through IUSE-1626765. You may request access to this activity via the following link: IntroCS-POGIL Activity Writing Program

Level: Undergraduate
Setting: Classroom 
Activity Type: Learning Cycle
Discipline: Computer Science
Course: Cybersecurity
Keywords: memory layout, stack, stack frame, buffer overflow, command-line parameters




How to Cite

Ramaprasad, H. (2022). Process Memory Layout: Cybersecurity. POGIL Activity Clearinghouse, 3(4). Retrieved from



CS-POGIL Activity Writing Program