In a blog post written Wednesday, Alex Rice detailed Facebook’s plans for increasing its security measures, an effort that was announced earlier this week. Whether purely by coincidence or not, this announcement comes just after Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s account was hacked.

With all the features Facebook has unveiled to protect their users’ privacy,  it’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken them this long to give the option of secure browsing, especially with programs like Firesheep, a Firefox add-on, out there. What Firesheep does is basically allow its user to set up shop on an unsecured network (schools, libraries, coffee shops, etc.). Then it can scan for people logged into sites such as Facebook or Twitter. As you can see by clicking on the Firesheep link, those users’ names and pictures will come up, allowing the Firesheep user to easily access their accounts. It’s scary stuff, but it’s happening all the time.

Facebook has begun rolling out the HTTPS setting that will allow you to ensure that your account information is secure, but know that you must opt in. This feature is, at least for now, not a default setting. What is HTTPS? To put it simply, it’s a secure connection, and you want to look to make sure that when you’re shopping online or logging in to your bank account — doing anything that involves your personal information — that extra ‘S’ — security —  is there. For example, if you’re sitting in a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi and decide to check your bank account to see if you can afford that second latte, that HTTPS is what’s preventing other people from, say, stealing your account information.

So how can you opt in? It’s quite simple.

  1. Once in your Facebook account, click on Account Settings.
  2. Scroll down until you see Account Security (third to last)
  3. If the secure browsing for your account has become available, you will see a check box that says “Browse Facebook on a secure connection (https) whenever possible.” You want to make sure there’s a check in that box. Then click Save.

One thing to note: While this feature will become available to all users, not everyone has it just yet. If you don’t, keep checking back and you should see it soon.

In the meantime, we can only hope that Twitter soon follows suit.

Image Source: Facebook Icon – Wikipedia; Screen Shot – Renee DeCoskey