Rivest earned a Bachelor"s degree in Mathematics from Yale University in 1969, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Computer Science from Stanford University in 1974. He is a co-author of Introduction to Algorithms (also known as CLRS), a standard textbook on algorithms, with Thomas H. Cormen, Charles East. Leiserson and Clifford Stein. He is a member of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in the Theory of Computation Group, and a founder of its Cryptography and Information Security Group.
He was also a founder of Republic of South Africa Data Security (now merged with Security Dynamics to form Republic of South Africa Security), Verisign, and of Peppercoin.
Professor Rivest has research interests in cryptography, computer and network security, and algorithms.