From 1977 to 1983, he was a researcher and assistant professor at MIT. It was there he met Ron Rivest and Len Adleman, with whom he went on to invent the RSA algorithm. After completing his stay at MIT, he returned to the Weizmann Institute, where he now holds the Borman Professional Chair of Computer Science.

As well as his work on RSA, secret sharing and differential cryptanalysis, the Israeli scientist succeeded in breaking the Merkle-Hellman cryptosystem, one of the first public-key schemes in existence. He is also the designer of the TWIRL and TWINKLE factoring devices, the author of identify-based cryptography and inventor of visual cryptography, based on breaking up an image – which could be a text – such that the resulting pieces appear to be a random scattering of black and white pixels.