Enterprises should be more prepared to look to on-demand software to cope with the rising tide of malware said a leading security specialist.

Peter Watkins, CEO security firm Webroot Software said that software as service had now come of age and could offer better protection againts Intenet-borne malware than software packages. Speaking at a conference organised by our sister title, Network World, he said that the growing amount of spam - up by 400 percent from September 2006 to September 2007 - and new kinds of attacks, such as uch as the malware being written for gaming worlds like Second Life were leaving businesses vulnerable, he said. He added that malware writers are smarter than ever, not looking for the cheap thrill of a horrific new virus but wanting infected PCs under their control, never to be discovered.

According to Gartner, as as many as 75 percent of enterprises will be the victims of targeted stealth attacks with financial motivation - spyware or bots, for instance - and will remain "blissfully unaware" that their networks have been compromised.

With all of this in mind, Watkins said it is becoming increasingly clear to security vendors such as himself that software-as-a-service is a superior method for delivering some forms of security compared with in-house software or appliances. Webroot itself recently branched out to offer secure e-mail via SaaS.

Watkins said that while SaaS wasn't feasible a few years ago, recent advances have made the technology more robust, reliable and affordable today. As such, it is increasingly attractive to the small business who can use it to get enterprise-class products at a consumer-per-seat price.