Turkey's chief public prosecutor has launched an official investigation after hackers claimed to have leaked the personal information of nearly 50 million Turkish citizens to the internet. The country's justice minister, Bekir Bozdağ, said the leak, which appeared to be politically motivated, needs to be verified.

"Turkey has a personal data protection law that guarantees personal data protection as an institutional right, in force," he said, as reported by Turkish news website Yeni Şafak. "Fifty million people is a very big number. We will take all measures to avoid an incident like this."

According to Reuters, he added: "How and from where this was leaked needs to be looked into. I believe the necessary investigations – both administrative and judicial – have been launched and whatever is necessary will be done.

Previously, a massive data leak appeared online that purported to contain the hacked details of millions of Turkish citizens – including the country's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The unnamed hacktivist uploaded a trove of details in a 6.6GB file that claims to hold the first and last names, national identifier numbers, mother and father's first names, gender, city of birth, date of birth, full address, ID registration cities and districts of 49,611,709 Turkish citizens.

Yet following the publication of the leak, Turkey's communications minister Binali Yıldırım slammed the reports as "old news from 2010" and said "this issue is brought to the agenda from time to time" , but refused to elaborate on the validity of the data.

However Tuncay Besikci, a computer forensics expert at PWC, confirmed the validity of the leaked data to Reuters. Echoing the statements of the Turkish officials, Besikci said the data appeared to consist of electrical records taken from the government's official Population Governance Central Database "in or around 2009".

If legitimate, the leak of citizen data would be greater in scope than the widespread 2015 incident at the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM), widely considered to be one of the most damaging cyberattacks against a government department. Hackers, often linked with the Anonymous hacking collective, have an established history of targeting Turkish officials. Most recently, a hacker unleashed a trove of data that contained 17.8GB worth of information compromised from a Turkish national police database.

This was backed up by Tuncay Besikci, a computer forensics expert at PWC, who confirmed has since confirmed the validity of the leaked data to Reuters. Echoing the statements of the Turkish officials, Besikci said the data appeared to consist of electrical records taken from the government's official Population Governance Central Database "in or around 2009."