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Turkey probes biggest data leak in country's history

Turkey is investigating how hackers posted online the identity data of 50 million Turks, including details about the president and prime minister. It could be the biggest data breach ever seen in the country.

A 1.5-gigabyte compressed file containing data including national ID numbers, addresses, birth dates and parents' names of 49.6 million Turks - about two thirds of the population - was posted at a website called the Turkish Citizenship Database.

The site is reportedly hosted by an Icelandic group that specializes in divulging leaks using servers in Romania.

The website said it included the ID information of President Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former president Abdullah Gul.

The leak came with the message: "Who would have imagined that backwards ideologies, cronyism and rising religious extremism in Turkey would lead to a crumbling and vulnerable technical infrastructure?"

The state reacts

Ankara's chief prosecutor's office is reportedly investigating the breach, after Transport and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim initially downplayed the leak as an "old story." He later confirmed a security breach had taken place.

"The data that was given to political parties for elections in 2009 and afterwards has been leaked," he said. Yildirim suggested the breach had been the work of "the parallel structure" - a phrase used to describe a network run by one of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's main enemies, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.

"How and from where this was leaked needs to be looked into," Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters. "I believe the necessary investigations - both administrative and judicial - have been launched and whatever is necessary will be done."

Erdogan's social media clampdown

Under Erdogan, Turkey has a taken a tough stance on social media sites. Turkey has in the past blocked access to sites such as Twitter and comments posted on the website suggest Turkey may have been a target of political hacking.

Turkey's Internet servers suffered one of the most intense cyberattacks ever seen in the country in December, when they were targeted by hacktivist group Anonymous, who said Turkey was "supporting the Islamic State by buying their oil and tending to their injured fighters."

Turkey has been working on a new data protection law for over a decade, part of its process of preparing to join the European Union. The latest version of the draft law was presented to parliament in January and the communications minister said it would come into force soon.

jbh/bk (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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