Can a virus/malware damage a video card?

Posting this here since it’s where all the gaming PC gurus hang out.

Short version - my daughter loaded a mod on Sims 4 on my Windows 10 PC. As soon as she tried to use the mod (a new hairstyle I believe) the PC rebooted with an error message. It was OK for a while after that, but when she tried to start another game that goes into full screen mode a few hours later (Lego Batman), the screen went black, the PC rebooted a few times, then went to the blue “Windows could not load properly” screen. After some diagnosing I’ll detail below, I’m pretty sure something went wrong with the video card.

Things I tried - system restore, 3 different restore points up to 2 weeks in the past. No effect - it still went to the blue error screens.
System repair - said there was nothing wrong that it could detect.
Booted to Safe mode, which did work, and ran Anti-malware bytes - it found one object it deleted.
Windows Defender full scan found nothing.
In the blue screen and in safe mode, I saw some video distortion that made me wonder about the video card. Specifically, there were 2 vertical regions, maybe 1/10 the width of the screen each, where the colors were wrong - if something white was in that region, it would be partially blue, something orange would be partially yellow, something blue would be green. I changed safe mode from the default resolution to 1920x1080, and the vertical distorted regions were still present, and there were more of them.

I pulled the video card, and attached the monitor to the motherboard video. Everything runs perfectly. Ran anti-malware & defender again, nothing found. I deleted all drivers associated with the video card, rebooted a few times for luck, and tried to put the video card back in.

On the first boot, it got all the way to the desktop, looked good, but rebooted within 2-3 minutes, then went back to the same cycle - would get to the black screen with the blue slanted window graphic and the spinning dots, sit there for a few minutes, reboot, do that once or twice, then go to the “Windows could not load correctly” blue screen.

So I’m at the point where it’s either reload Windows, which wipes out all my applications, or replace the videocard. I’d hate to reinstall Windows and find out that wasn’t the issue, which is what I suspect. But I’m having trouble seeing how a virus in a Sims mod could actually damage the videocard hardware or firmware itself. Any advice?

Card is a Asus R9270-DC2OC-2GD5, that I bought 2 years ago.
Motherboard is an Asus M5A78L-M LX Plus that I bought at the same time.

Running Windows 10, upgraded from Windows 8.1.

Thanks.

I don’t see how a game mod would mess up a graphics card.

Have you uninstalled and reinstalled Sims 4? Banished the mod in question?

An executable could definitely bugger up your video card’s firmware after you went through the UAC prompt. In fact, a lot of people would intentionally do just that in order to turn their mid-range GPU into a high-end high-precision workstation card or to restore performance to cards that were intentionally crippled by the manufacturer.

However, I haven’t heard of anyone doing that maliciously. People who distribute malicious software don’t do that kind of thing. They want to get money from you with ransomware or turn your PC into a cryptocurrency bot. Not just blow things up. It is probably just a coincidence.

GPU is just busted. Some solder let loose or something.

Yes, uninstalling Sims 4 and deleting the mod was one of the first things I did. Made sure the folder and all traces were deleted as well.

Do you think a badly written cryptocurrency bot screw up the GPU? And if so, would a pass of antimalware and windows defender have detected if it was still present/running? If this GPU is toast I’m willing to get a new one, but I want to make sure I don’t still have something malicious running around.

Too late to edit, forgot to ask - would solder popping loose explain what I’m seeing - card works in safe mode (with distortions), but Windows either crashes soon after booting or won’t boot at all in normal mode?

Yes. Certain Nvidia chips were infamous for this. Your card is, of course, AMD. Have you checked that the fans are working correctly? A quick Google indicates plenty of issues with these cards overheating. Sometimes they have problems with thermal paste.

GPU malware does exist; I’m no expert there so I’ll let others tell you about that.

Unfortunately, given the behaviour in Safe Mode, it’s likely that you’ve cooked yours so you should check the warranty.

Thanks. 2+ years old, so I assume it’s out of warranty. I did verify the fans are spinning though.
I appreciate the help. Basically, I was trying to figure out which of the 2 unpalatable next steps I should try - buy a new card, or reinstall Windows 10 and have to spend days reconfiguring my system. Guess I’ll go with the card.
So, anyone have recommendations for a budget video card for gaming? $150ish max.

ETA: Looks like the warranty period is actually 36 months, so I’m going to try to get Asus to pony up for a new one.

Since I hate OP’s that ask for advice but never follow up:

Got an RMA from ASUS & returned the card, which was still under warranty. While waiting for it to come back, PC ran fine on the motherboard VGA, though at a really crappy resolution. Ran multiple Anti-malware bytes & Defender scans, never found anything. ASUS replaced the card with a comparable card that came out about a year ago. Installed card, installed latest drivers, everything is working fine for the past week. No need to reinstall Windows.