Smartphone security: What’s better to use a PIN, facial recognition, or your fingerprint?

Locking your phone keeps out snoops, but it's also your first line of defense against hackers and cybercriminals out for your data and anything else they can steal.

One of their biggest targets? Your money and your credit cards. Tap or click for 3 safer ways to pay for things online other than credit cards.

So, what's the best way to secure your phone? Is it biometrics like your fingerprint or a scan of your face? Or a traditional PIN or password?

Most people aren’t very good at creating hard-to-crack passwords, so yours might not even be effective at keeping your devices or your accounts safe. Tap or click for 5 new rules you need to use next time you’re creating a new password.

No matter which method you choose, I'll show you the best way to make sure your phone, and everything in it, is secure. Let’s start with facial recognition.

Look at that face

Facial recognition made its way to smartphones in 2016 with the Galaxy Note 7. Apple introduced Face ID with the iPhone X, which came out the next year.

This feature is all about convenience. Software scans your features to identify and verify your identity. One glance and your device is unlocked — no need to fuss with PINs or passwords.

Apple’s Face ID can do more than just unlock your phone. Tap or click here for 5 tips and tricks to make using your phone safer and easier to use.

Now, odds are slim someone else can use Face ID to unlock your iPhone, at least according to Apple.

The company says there’s a 1-in-1-million chance a random person could unlock your phone or iPad using the facial recognition system. The odds get a lot better if you’ve got an identical twin or a sibling or other relative who looks like you.

RELATED: Your emails are being tracked. But you can stop it. Tap or click here to take back your privacy and shut out data-hungry senders.

Things haven’t been so smooth for Google and its Pixel 4. Last month, early adopters discovered a flaw that makes it easy for anyone with physical access to your phone to unlock it.

Here are a few other situations where using facial recognition to secure your phone gets tricky:

Someone forces you to log into your device by making you look at your phone.

Law enforcement legally compels you to unlock your mobile device. Can police make you unlock your phone? It depends. Tap or click here to find out.

A photo, mask and even a baseball cap are purportedly able to fool facial recognition software.

A lasting impression

Like Face ID, fingerprint authentication is a quick and convenient way to unlock your phone. Just pick it up and place your finger over the sensor. Here are a few reasons you may want to use your fingerprint to lock your device:

No two fingers have identical characteristics, so there’s little chance of false positives. It’s quick. Scanners take just a moment to identify or reject a fingerprint. Unlike a password, you can’t lose or share your fingerprint. Fingerprints are stored as encrypted mathematical representations, not as images. This step makes them difficult to hack.

RELATED: Have a sneaking suspicion someone is stealing your Wi-Fi? Tap or click for a simple way to see every device connected to your network.

Finger authentication has many advantages, but it’s not foolproof — especially for someone who has physical access to you and your phone. There are stories of kids using a sleeping parent’s fingerprint to unlock a device, like a 6-year-old who went on an expensive shopping spree in 2016. And depending on your fingerprint scanner, they can be finicky to use.

Some reports suggest a fingerprint left on an item such as a cup can be used to deceive fingerprint scanners. Mobile security experts even warn replicating a fingerprint may only require a camera and printer.

Name games

Despite advances in technology, tried-and-true methods like PINs, passcodes and passwords are still some of the most common for securing smartphones.

Many users find these forms of security handy as they can use a similar PIN or password across many sites, accounts and devices. Smartphone users also tend to create PINs or passwords that are easy to remember, such as a birthday, address, username or other special date.

What makes this type of authentication convenient is also what makes it most susceptible to hackers. Cybercriminals know people create passwords from basic words or phrases and that they use identical passwords across the internet. Plus, PINs and passwords can be forgotten or stolen or even decoded with devices like GrayKey.

Make it a combo

While each method of securing your phone has its own set of weaknesses, stats show about a quarter of mobile device users don’t use any security technique at all. So, if you utilize any of the above procedures, you’re already a step ahead of those who take no precaution.

For the best protection, though, don’t rely on just one method. Use a combination of biometrics and PINs, passcodes or passwords to provide an extra layer of security in case one fails or is compromised.

Setting up two-factor authentication for your accounts also goes a long way in protecting you. Tap or click to learn more about how 2FA works.

When creating a password or PIN for two-factor authentication or just to lock your phone, it’s crucial you follow a few guidelines:

Do not create a password or PIN with all the same letters or digits.

Use letters, numbers and special characters whenever you can.

Make your passcode longer than four digits if possible. The longer, the better.

Do not use easy-to-guess information like your birthday, name or address.

If you’re concerned about remembering longer and more complex passcodes and PINs, it may help to store them in a password manager.

Although using multiple forms of security requires a bit more effort than relying just a single technique, it does safeguard against their individual weaknesses. This ensures your device — and your data — are protected.

BONUS TIP FOR EVEN MORE KNOW-HOW: Secret way to dig up dirt on anyone online

We’ve probably all done this at some point. You meet someone in person or online, like on a dating site or at work, and you’re compelled to do a little “research” to dig up potential dirt on them.

You can find out a lot about someone online. But there’s only so much info you can glean if the person you’re looking for has locked down his or her social media profiles or erased all the info collected on shady online directories.

That’s why you need to stick with sites you can trust. Don’t get sucked in by those creepy people search sites that charge you for often outdated or incorrect information. Here are three methods to find reliable info on just about anyone.

Tap or click here for my insider trick to learn more about anyone.

What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch the Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.

Copyright 2019, WestStar Multimedia Entertainment. All rights reserved.

Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at