OPM restores online background checks

OPM restores online background checks

The government is electronically accepting security clearance forms for background checks again.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which handles the security clearance process for federal agencies, said Thursday it was starting to bring its submission system, called e-QIP, back online.

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The agency pulled the platform down in the wake of devastating hacks at the agency that exposed more than 22 million people’s sensitive information, including 21.5 million people’s background investigation forms for security clearance.

“OPM is working closely with agencies to re-enable e-QIP users incrementally in an effort to resume this service in an efficient and orderly way,” OPM spokesperson Sam Schumach said in a statement Thursday.

The data breaches spurred the agency to initiate a security review that ultimately revealed potentially crippling flaws in the e-QIP online submission platform that people use during the background check process.

The OPM has maintained the hack of its security clearance database was unrelated to the security deficiency discovered in e-QIP and the subsequent decision to disable the system.

“This action was not the direct result of malicious activity on this network, and there is no evidence that the vulnerability in question has been exploited,” Schumach said. “Rather, OPM took this step proactively, as a result of our comprehensive security assessment, to safeguard the ongoing security of the network.”

Since e-QIP was taken down in late June, the federal government has reverted back to hard copies of the background questionnaires.

With 20,000 to 30,000 background checks flooding into the OPM each week, officials were hoping to avoid exacerbating an already existing backlog of pending clearance requests.

Lawmakers, including Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump: Why isn't Senate looking into 'Fake News Networks'? 5 takeaways from Senate Russian meddling presser Trump: 'America is truly a nation in mourning' MORE (D-Va.), have expressed concerns about the agency’s ability to handle the security clearance process. Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Steve Russell (R-Okla.) have also introduced a bill that would move the security clearance database away from the OPM.

The OPM said it used the e-QIP downtime to install additional security measures to protect background check data.

“These improvements further enhanced password protections, secured the transmission of data within the application and implemented additional protections against external threats,” Schumach said. “Based on the security enhancements and the extensive testing that has been completed, OPM is re-enabling access to e-QIP with confidence in the security of the system.”