FILE: U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta rubs her eyes, as she testifies before a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on a data breach of OPM computers. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The web-based system used for federal background investigations for employees and contractors has been suspended after “a vulnerability” was detected, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced Monday.

OPM has been the subject of intense congressional probing following the cyber attack on the personnel records of at least 4.2 million current and former federal employees. The decision to suspend the agency’s “E-Qip” system, however, is not directly related to that hack or another one of a security clearance data base that was previously announced.

[Feds anger grows over data breach, amid fears that the number affected could rise]

“The actions OPM has taken are not the direct result of malicious activity on this network, and there is no evidence that the vulnerability in question has been exploited,” an OPM statement said. “Rather, OPM is taking this step proactively, as a result of its comprehensive security assessment, to ensure the ongoing security of its network.”

The agency’s statement did not define the nature of the vulnerability, but Samuel Schumach, OPM’s press secretary, said, “Everyone concurred that vulnerability posed a significant risk that warranted immediate action.”  OPM said the system  will be down four to six weeks, which will cause delays for those seeking background investigations.

“The security of OPM’s networks remains my top priority as we continue the work outlined in my IT Strategic Plan, including the continuing implementation of modern security controls,” said OPM Director Archuleta. “This proactive, temporary suspension of the e-QIP system will ensure our network is as secure as possible for the sensitive data with which OPM is entrusted.”