OPM shutters web background checks for security enhancements

The Office of Personnel Management has decided to suspend its web-based background checks for the time being. In particular, it has pulled down the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing system (e-QIP) "for an extended period of time." According to a notice posted on its website, the downtime's necessary "for security enhancements" -- if you recall, OPM was recently the target of a massive hack that exposed the SSNs and other sensitive info of at least 4 million people who've been employed by the government from as far back as 1985.

The agency's in charge of looking into every potential federal employee's background, you see, making it a natural target for anyone who wants to steal data for nefarious purposes. In fact, e-QIP served as the office's online questionnaire, where applicants, new hires and old employees can enter their info, along with their relatives' info and personal relationship details, into OPM's database.

However, the agency insists that this isn't a response to the major security breach it suffered and is instead a proactive move to patch up a vulnerability that has been identified in its system. OPM director Katherine Archuleta (pictured above) says that vulnerability hasn't been exploited yet, so the agency's taking steps to make sure it remains that way. The office's web questionnaire will be unavailable for four to six weeks, but OPM will work with other agencies to do background checks without it during that timespan.

[Image credit: Getty Images]